TERRE HAUTE, IND. -- Bluffton University built an early 24-0 lead and held off a Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology second half charge to capture a 31-13 win in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference football action on Saturday.
Junior Mitch Snyder (Casey, Ill./Casey-Westfield) finished 24-45 through the air for 253 yards to lead the Rose-Hulman offensive attack. Senior Sutton Coleman (Lebanon, Va.) hauled in four receptions for 90 yards, and senior Jordan Nielson (Syracuse, Utah/Clearfield) made six catches for 70 yards.
Junior Kyle Kovach (Munster/Andrean) became the sixth player in school history to cross the 2,500-yard rushing mark in his career with 67 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. He also established a new Rose-Hulman career record for all-purpose yardage with 130 on the day to increase his career total to 4,410 yards.
Chris Byrd led the Bluffton offense with 189 yards passing and one touchdown, while rushing for 78 yards and one score. Airic Stegall added 85 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Todd Trotter made five catches for 117 yards for the Beavers.
Defensively, junior Ben Parker (Fillmore/South Putnam) paced Rose-Hulman with 10 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and one pass breakup. Sophomore Marcus Washington (Frankfort, Ky.) hauled in an interception, and junior Ryan Gallagher (Greenwood) contributed eight tackles to the effort.
Bluffton relied on big plays to earn a 17-0 lead after the first quarter. The Beavers marched 64 yards on six plays to take a 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Austin Sweeney. On the next drive, Byrd scored on a 68-yard touchdown run to make the score 10-0.
Following a three-and-out, Byrd connected with Jason Johnson on a 43-yard touchdown strike to put Bluffton ahead 17-0 after the first quarter. The Beavers added another score two minutes later on a three-yard run by Airic Stegall to make the score 24-0 early in the second quarter.
Rose-Hulman crossed the 50-yard line on its second-to-last drive of the first half, but was forced to turn the ball over on downs and Bluffton maintained a 24-point lead at the half.
The third quarter belonged to Rose-Hulman, as the Engineers began a second half charge. Following a punt midway through the quarter, the Engineers marched 72 yards on six plays for its first score of the day.
Snyder connected on a 43-yard pass to Coleman to start the drive, which Kovach ended with a one-yard touchdown run to make the score 24-7 at the 6:21 mark.
After Rose-Hulman forced another three-and-out by Bluffton, the Engineers marched 64 yards in seven plays to close within 24-13 late in the third quarter. Snyder connected on passes of 25 yards to Nielson and 19 yards to sophomore Joel Stiffler (DeWitt, Mich.), before Kovach scored his second touchdown of the day from three yards out at the 2:35 mark.
Rose-Hulman forced another stop early in the fourth quarter and marched to the Bluffton 20-yard line, before an interception by Birchel Ralph in the red zone ended the potential scoring drive.
The Rose-Hulman defense held again to force another three-and-out and provide another offensive possession early in the fourth quarter. Bluffton's defense held on four straight plays, before Steagall sealed the victory with a five-yard touchdown at the 3:32 mark.
Bluffton improved to 4-4 overall and 4-2 in conference play, while Rose-Hulman dropped to 3-4 overall and 3-2 in league games. The Fightin' Engineers host Defiance College next Saturday afternoon at 1:30 in the Senior Day matchup.