By ANDY WOLF
HILLSDALE, Mich. — Hillsdale College posed the kind of tough test the University of Findlay football team hadn’t seen in awhile.
The Oilers entered on a four-game win streak, taking each by an average margin of 50 points.
While Saturday’s start was uncharacteristically slower, Findlay never trailed and produced a comfortable 31-13 victory at Frank “Muddy” Waters Stadium.
“No. 1, winning on the road is a tough task in itself,” UF coach Rob Keys said. “The game didn’t start like it had started in the past couple games. We didn’t have that quick touchdown, that quick stop.”
The Oilers improved to 6-1 overall, 3-0 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference while the Chargers dropped to 3-4, 1-2.
For the first time since Week 1, the Oilers didn’t score a touchdown on their opening possession.
The offense did get rolling and produced 499 yards with two touchdowns in both the second and third quarters.
Daouda Sylla scored on 5- and 1-yard runs after a 19-yard field goal by Chris Delmer to give UF a 17-0 halftime edge.
Sylla totaled 95 yards on 22 carries while Michael Campbell added 12 carries for 78 yards and an 18-yard touchdown that gave UF its largest lead at 31-7 with 1:40 left in the third.
But it was the passing game, and not the nation’s No. 4 rushing offense, that set up those scores.
Junior quarterback Rhys Gervais returned from a two-game injury hiatus and routinely picked apart Hillsdale’s defense.
He connected on 18 of 24 attempts in the first half for 235 yards with a red-zone pick and finished with 332 yards (26 of 37) for his first 300-yard passing game this season and the 11th of his career.
“We knew coming in that’s kind of been their MO; they want to play off and give us everything underneath,” Gervais said. “There’s only been a handful of plays throughout the season that we saw where people actually beat them deep.”
Gervais got an assortment of receivers involved as seven caught multiple balls — all before halftime.
Jason Moore led with 95 yards on six catches and junior Jacob Boucher had career highs of five catches and 48 yards.
“It felt real good; it was a lot of movement today,” Gervais said of his injured left leg. “It’s no different today than it would’ve been after practice.”
On UF’s first drive of the third quarter, Gervais threw one up for 6-foot-5 sophomore Drew Ogletree, who made the 9-yard snag behind a defender in the back of the end zone.
“Guys were joking out there saying it was going to be an ESPN top 10 (play),” Gervais said. “We mess with Jason all the time during practice because Jason and Drew will make some crazy catches.”
While Gervais was completing plenty of passes, his counterpart in Hillsdale’s Chance Stewart wasn’t.
The Oilers regularly pressured the 6-foot-5 junior, sacking him five times. When he didn’t feel the heat, several throws were either dropped or off target.
After going 4 of 12 with an interception to Tyler Lee in the first half, Stewart ended up 15 of 35 for 272 yards.
The passing game was the best chance Hillsdale had against the Oilers.
UF completely eliminated any semblance of a run game, holding the Chargers to just 34 yards on 24 rushing attempts.
“We already knew they were a run-first team so our first objective was to stop the run,” Lee said. “We knew they were going to throw it up so when they threw it up we had to be sure to take care of our job and get turnovers.”
The Chargers gained one-third of their 306 yards on two plays — a 58-yard catch and run by Trey Brock on the fourth play of the second half, and a 54-yard pass from Stewart to Austin Sandusky.
Brock, the second-leading receiver nationally with 767 yards, totaled 100 yards on four catches.
“Lucky for us we go against an All-American every day, Jason Moore,” Lee said of having to cover another All-American in Brock. “Trey, he’s a good player, fast, so we’ve just got to be on our Ps and Qs and make sure we stay on top of him.”
Isaac Miles backed the UF defense with eight tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and recovery that led to Sylla’s first score three plays later.
Tyler Long had seven tackles and Chewy Chukwuneke broke up two passes.
Findlay 3 14 14 0 — 31
Hillsdale 0 0 7 6 — 13
UF — FG Demler 19
UF — Sylla 5 run (Demler kick)
UF — Sylla 1 run (Demler kick)
HC — Brock 58 pass from Stewart (Phillipp kick)
UF — Campbell 18 run (Demler kick)
UF — Ogletree 9 pass from Gervais (Demler kick)
HC — Adams 18 pass from Stewart (pass failed)
First Downs 25 15
Rushes-yards 37-167 24-34
Passing Yards 332 272
Comp-Att-Int 26-37-1 15-36-1
Punts-Avg. 5-38.2 4-43.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 9-78 1-5
rushing — Findlay, Sylla 22-95, Campbell 12-78, Hill 1-1, Gervais 1-(minus 4), Team 1-(minus 3). Hillsdale, Graham 8-32, Harlamert 1-6, Shepler 2-4, Stewart 10-0, O’Brien 1-(minus 1), Sandusky 1-(minus 3); Miller 1-(minus 4).
passing — Findlay, Gervais 26-37-1-332. Hillsdale, Stewart 15-35-1-272; Mills 0-1-0-0.
receiving — Findlay, Moore 6-95, Boucher 5-48, Stuffel 3-48, Allton 3-45, Ogletree 4-42, Kosak 2-31, Hill 2-22, Sylla 1-1. Hillsdale, Brock 4-100, Sandusky 3-76, Mills 3-51, McNitt 2-21, Adams 1-18, Graham 2-6.