In the sport of football, coaches constantly talk about the desire to achieve balance on offense, that is, similar amounts of rushing yards and passing yards.
If that test were applied to the Hillsdale College football team on Saturday afternoon, give it an A+.
The Chargers were efficient and productive in every aspect of their offense in a 38-14 victory over Concord University on a sunny but windy day at Frank "Muddy" Waters Stadium. The win, Hillsdale's third in a row, makes the team 3-2 on the season while the Mountain Lions fell to 0-5.
Led by the best passing day in the young career of freshman quarterback Luke Keller and another signature performance from tailback David Graham, the Chargers accumulated a season-high 493 yards of total offense. But what made that number significant was that 250 of those yards came from the passing game and 243 came via the run game, ideal run-pass balance for any football team.
Keller was on target throughout this game, completing 18 of 22 passes for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. He showed exceptional improvement at buying time in the pocket, reading the defense and sorting through his targets on the field to locate the open receiver. He played with poise and confidence, easily setting a new career-high in pass completion percentage (81.8 percent).
The Mountain Lions scored on their first drive and held the Chargers to a three-and-out to open the game. But Charger senior Drake Temple made a big play early in the game with an interception, his third of the season. That set the Chargers up at the Concord 15-yard line, where Keller got the team on the board with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Nathan LaFree, tying the game at 7. That play showed Keller's ability to buy time in the pocket and locate LaFree, who was running towards the back corner of the end zone.
A Bryce Sealock field goal made it 10-7 as the end of the second quarter approached. On the final play of the half, Keller threw a laser of a pass that went just past the outstretched hands of wide receiver Konnor Maloney, but found its way to fellow receiver Alexnder Giampietro, who ran through the stunned Concord secondary for a 60-yard touchdown as time expired in the second quarter. It wasn't the kind of high-arcing Hail Mary pass that usually happens at this point in the game, but it was a hard, straight throw by Keller that resulted in a huge touchdown to expand Hillsdale's lead from 3 to 10 points going into the locker room.
Graham scored on a one-yard run late in the third quarter to increase the lead to 24-7, but that drive was a statement by Graham and the team's offensive line, which made no mistake about who the winner of this game would ultimately be.
Graham ran the ball on eight consecutive plays, accounting for all 80 yards on the scoring drive. It was highlighted by scampers of 16 and 28 yards on back-to-back plays in which he used terrific blocking from his line and scooted through the first couple of would-be tacklers to keep Hillsdale moving in the right direction. It was simply a masterful drive, made possible by the disciplined and strong blocking of the offensive line. Graham finished the game carrying the ball 25 times for 161 yards, while also catching 3 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. His scoring catch came on a 48-yard screen pass from Keller, with Graham doing much of the legwork, juking and running his way through the Concord defense.
Junior quarterback Ty Cox finished off the scoring for Hillsdale with a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The Charger defense, which has yielded a total of 28 points in its last 13 quarters, was again a factor, forcing four turnovers in the win. Matt Harding had an interception, and Gabe Nickels and Nate Canterbury each recovered fumbles in the win.
PHOTO: Todd Lancaster