Franklin, Ind., November 23, 2013 – Franklin College quarterback Johnny West hit wide receiver Kendal Butler over the middle for a 35-yard touchdown with 17.7 seconds left to lift the Grizzlies to a 17-10 win over Washington University in St. Louis in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs Saturday on a windy day in Franklin, Ind.
The Bears, playing the second NCAA Playoff game of the program's 117-year history, finished the season with an 8-3 record. Franklin improved to 8-3 and will face No. 6 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Saturday, Nov. 30, at Noon.
Weather conditions, which included temperatures around 32 degrees at kickoff and winds gusting as strong as 28 miles per hour throughout the game, made kicking difficult. With the Bears punting into the wind in the fourth quarter, Franklin started its game-winning drive at the Washington U. 48-yard line with 49.9 seconds remaining and the score tied at 10.
"I don't think we played guarded at all," head coach Larry Kindbom said. "The wind is affecting both teams. We just played Washington University football."
After a Grizzlies' first down took the ball to the Bears' 35-yard line with 29 seconds remaining, Franklin dialed up a post route. With defenders hanging on, Butler reached for the goal line and was awarded the game-winning touchdown.
The Washington U. offense took over with 10.9 seconds left at its own 20, and senior quarterback Eric Daginella rushed up the middle for 16 yards. Daginella hit sophomore running back Cody Ratermann on a screen with 3.4 seconds remaining, and Ratermann ran for 24 yards before attempting a lateral, which was deflected and recovered by Franklin to end the game.
"They're a fast team. We haven't seen a lot of teams this year that are that quick and fly around the field that fast. They are great in pursuit defensively," Daginella said.
The Bears' defense forced three turnovers against a Franklin offense that averaged 48.6 points per game and 360.5 passing yards per game. West was held to 262 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 35-64 passing.
"We watched a lot of film this week… and we noticed that [West] has a really good connection with all of his receivers," junior linebacker Fade Oluokun said. "Our goal this week was to try and disrupt that as much as possible through coverage and through pressure, and I think we did a pretty good job of doing that."
Neither team could get anything going offensively early in the game, and Daginella was picked off by Franklin's Zack Corpe at the Bears' 38-yard line with 1:35 remaining in the first quarter. The Grizzlies scored the game's first points nine plays later on a five-yard touchdown pass from West to Kyle Linville on fourth-and-one with 14:19 remaining in the second quarter.
With 1:35 left in the second quarter, senior Tate Byers picked off West at the Bears' 43-yard line to give the offense a chance to score before halftime. Daginella rushed for 13 yards on third-and-two to extend the drive and hit wide receiver Kevin Hammerlund for a nine-yard completion on the next play. The Bears drove to the Franklin 13-yard line before settling for a 30-yard Alex Hallwachs field goal as time expired to go into the half trailing Franklin 7-3.
After an Alec Stanke punt following the Bears' first drive of the second half pinned Franklin at its own 19-yard line, Oluokun forced a fumble on an end-around, which the Bears recovered at the Grizzlies' 14. On the next play, Ratermann snuck out of the backfield and Daginella found him wide open for the 14-yard touchdown pass. Hallwachs put through the extra point to give Washington U. a 10-7 lead, its first of the game, with 10:40 to play.
Sophomore cornerback Quincy Marting came up with a big interception with 8:36 to play on a deep ball over the middle of the field at the Washington U. 7-yard line which he returned to the Bears' 32.
"We put ourselves in a stem so that [West] wouldn't know what coverage we were in. I just dropped back to play a deep half and just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Marting said.
After a holding penalty and sack, the Bears punted on 4th-and-20 and gave the ball back to Franklin at their 43-yard line with 6:34 to play. The Grizzlies drove down the field to the Bears' 19-yard line, but Byers broke up a third-down pass to force Franklin to settle for three points. Kicker Mike Wood put through a 36-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 with 4:33 to play.
Washington U. could not get anything going offensively, and Franklin took over at their own 39-yard line with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter. Senior defensive back Andrew Skalman broke up a third-down pass with 1:45 remaining to force a punt. The offense took over at its own 24-yard line with 1:34 to play.
Daginella quickly completed passes to freshman Zach Strittmatter and junior Chris Levine for a Washington U. first down to the 35-yard line with 1:18 remaining. Two incompletions and a sack, though, forced the Bears' punt that set up the last Franklin drive.
"I think we played good football during the course of the year, and one thing we've tried to build in our program over the course of the years is playing a good schedule. We want to play the best teams that we can play out there," Kindbom said. "Our players were pretty deserving of certainly being there."
Daginella was 13-for-27 with 133 yards and a TD through the air. Marting had a career-high 12 tackles, an interception and a pass break-up, while Oluokun added a season-high 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Bear Notebook: The Washington University Class of 2014 graduates with an overall record of 26-15 (.634) … WUSTL had an advantage in time of possession of 32:42-27:18 … The Bears converted 2 of 18 third downs offensively … All 10 Washington U. points came off Franklin turnovers … The Bears are now 0-2 all-time in the postseason.