The Hillsdale College football team broke two significant losing streaks on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium.
The Chargers played a strong two-way second half on their way to a 35-16 win over Wayne State University. The win improves Hillsdale to 3-1 in the GLIAC and 3-3 overall, while the Warriors fell to 3-3.
The win was Hillsdale's first over Wayne State since 2009, breaking its longest current losing streak to a conference opponent. It was also the team's first home win of the season after a pair of frustrating losses to a pair of talented foes.
Hillsdale broke open a tight game early in the third quarter when senior Steve Harding took back an interception 28 yards for a touchdown to increase Hillsdale's lead to 21-9. Harding, a veteran player who has dealt with difficult injuries throughout his career, read the pass play perfectly and galloped untouched into the end zone for one of the true feel-good scores of the year for the Chargers.
The pick-six sparked energy in the Chargers, who forced the Warriors into mistakes throughout the game. Hillsdale intercepted three passes and featured tough, tackle-breaking running by a trio of tailbacks.
All three featured backs - Issac Spence, Alex Koski and Wade Wood - each scored rushing touchdowns in the game, with Koski registering his first-ever two-touchdown game. All four scoring runs came from an average of foiur yards away from the goal line, often dragging Wayne State defenders with them. Koski in particular, had two nice cuts on his first touchdown run, a three-yard jaunt that brought Hillsdale into the lead for good, 7-6.
Wayne State opened the scoring on a three-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 49-yard touchdown pass to jumpo ahead of the Chargers 6-0. But Hillsdale's offense answered in impressive fashion, aided by a couple of short Wayne State punts, and big plays by the defense.
Junior Tim Moinet intercepted a pass late in the first quarter and returned it to the Wayne State 37-yard line, setting up a short field for the Chargers. Spence finished off the drive with a powerful, eight-yard run to paydirt, quickly turning a 6-0 deficit into a 14-6 Hillsdale lead at the close of the first quarter.
The defenses dominated much of the second quarter, with the Warriors only managing a field goal until Harding's interception. Wayne State answered that score with an 11-play, 68-yard drive of its own to cut the lead to 21-16. But that would be the last time the Chargers allowed the Warriors to score, as Hillsdale showed impressive killer instinct on both offense and defense in the game.
Senior Steven Embry picked up his fourth interception in the past three games, killing Wayne State's next drive after its last touchdown. That pick-off allowed the Chargers to again start deep in Wayne State territory, and six plays later, Koski plunged in from two yards out to put Hillsdale ahead two scores.
It was a game that saw Wayne State outgain Hillsdale in total yards 351-236, pick up one more first down, and own a seven-minute edge in time of possession. But turnovers were the big story here, as Hillsdale's three interceptions turned the tide of the game. The Chargers also did not commit a turnover of their own in the ballgame.
Spence led the balanced ground attack with 56 yards on 11 carries. Wood had 51 yards on 13 attempts, and Koski's two touchdowns came on seven carries for 29 yards.
Senior linebacker Brett Pasche had a big game for Hillsdale with 14 total tackles, 11 of them solo. Seven different players had tackles-for-loss from the Charger defense. Zach Swaffer had 1.5 sacks, and Moinet had nine total tackles and twop pass break-ups for the winning team.
Hillsdale stays home next weekend to host Ferris State University at 2:30 p.m.