Davenport University defeated Miami of Ohio Saturday in a battle of undefeated in the Midwest D1AA Men’s College Eastern Conference, riding a hard-running second half to a 49-15 victory.
The game was much more competitive than the score might indicate, especially in the first half. Davenport scored early but Miami kept it close, and with ten minutes to go in the first half Davenport led by a relatively closer 19-8.
During the closing moments of the first half, Miami consistently pressured the Panthers in their own 22, but couldn’t quite punch it in. Davenport seemed to relieve pressure with a massive clearance kick from flyhalf JP Eloff. Miami’s return kick was weak and Davenport pressed on with an overlap. A late pass, however, resulted in a knock-on and a scrum to Miami in the visitors’ 22.
Miami attacked weak side and sent their wing 60 meters, breaking tackles as he went. He astutely passed inside to set up an outstanding try for Miami. After what was a momentum-changing score, Miami had closed the deficit to 19-15.
Injury was added to insult for Davenport as Eloff appeared to injure his shoulder trying to make a tackle on the play. He shifted from flyhalf to fullback and then at halftime was replaced by Griffin Benson.
But another momentum-shifter right after halftime put Davenport on the front foot to stay. Ryan Hargraves jarred the ball loose with a thundering tackle right off the kickoff. The flanker then pounced on the loose ball and dove over for a try seconds into the second half. Up 26-15, Davenport started to test Miami’s fitness. After having two tries called back (held up and a forward pass), they finally scored an insurance try, through Gabe Sochanek and then added another moments later from Mason Baum.
Miami, gallant and hard-working, just lacked that extra injection of pace take advantage of the little possession they got.
Mason Baum, Demecus Beach, Lance Cavanaugh, JP Eloff, Ryan Hargraves, Gabe Sochanek and Cyrus Turner all scored tries for Davenport, with Eloff adding two conversions and Griffin Benson two more plus two penalties.
“We played very well today, we came out as a team and were able to get a big win," said Benson. "There was a lot of hype leading into this game and I think we proved that we were one of the best teams in D1-AA. Coming in at half is a little different than starting the game because you have to get your intensity level up to what the other guys are at. Right off the bat, Ryan Hargraves broke away and scored the try to get the offensive going, which helped settle my nerves. Then on defense I knew that I just had to step up my game and make my tackles.”
“The guys played a great game today," added assistant coach Phil Eloff. "Miami is a very good team and they play very similar to us. I thought we came out very strong and that is what we wanted from the guys and the only thing that we could work on is just having them play at the same level for the whole game. And with JP going down, you never know what type of game we will have because he is such a leader but Griffin Benson came in and played a great game.”
With the victory, Davenport moves to 4-0 with bonus points for four tries from each win. Miami drops to 3-1 and will likely be in third if form holds and Bowling Green (3-0) defeats 0-3 Michigan State Saturday.