By ANDY WOLF
The University of Findlay football team finally got the fast start it wanted.
The Oilers recovered William Jewell College’s fumble on the opening kickoff and put up the first 34 points en route to a 58-17 nonleague victory in their home opener Saturday at Donnell Stadium.
“It was the recipe for success,” said UF coach Rob Keys who earned his 50th victory in eight seasons. “The first two weeks of the season we did not have a complete team fast start.”
The Cardinals, who fell 55-17 at home to UF last year, dropped to 0-2 overall.
The Oilers (2-1), so far, lacked a complete first quarter where Keys felt the offense and defense fed off each other.
Such wasn’t the case Saturday.
The offense scored touchdowns on its first five drives.
The first-string defense yielded no points.
“We talked at length about it and we practiced different scenarios early in practice to simulate a fast start in the beginning of the game,” Keys said. “Our guys took to it and that’s the good thing.”
Findlay finished with a 592-298 offensive edge, 369-160 by halftime in taking a 34-7 lead.
The Oilers, largely, got everything they wanted offensively.
Quarterback Rhys Gervais threw for 250 of his 311 yards in the first half. He completed 16 of 21 passes in all with two touchdowns and an interception.
Carter Blakeney’s fumble recovery just seconds into the game set the Oilers up at the William Jewell 29-yard line.
UF’s first three drives ended in rushing touchdown each from its trio of backs in Michael Campbell (4 yards), Chauncey Bridges (1 yard) and Richard Wilson (18 yards) — the latter covering 94 yards in four plays and 1:56.
Gervais found Nate Slagel for a 10-yard touchdown pass on their next drive, another four-play series for 71 yards in 1:38.
Bridges capped Findlay’s next drive on a 4-yard touchdown run and the scoreboard read 34-0 with 2:15 to go in the second quarter.
“I felt like guys were really locked in,” Gervais said. “We had a few miscues here and there but for the most part the guys were locked in for what we were trying to do today.”
William Jewell’s only first-half points came via an 82-yard interception return touchdown by Donte Colum.
Keys noted the intended receiver extended his route a couple yards and wasn’t in his spot when Gervais threw it.
Chris Demler tacked on a 39-yard field goal at the half’s end.
The Oilers opened the second half with a bang, perfectly executing a flea-flicker.
Gervais hit a wide-open Peter Norris in stride down the left side for the 61-yard touchdown strike. Norris led the Oilers with five catches and 122 yards.
Gervais said they noticed, in the first half, the safety not playing deep and WJC biting hard on the run a couple times.
Offensive coordinator Kory Allen made the suggestion to Keys who did have to think about it with the game not yet in hand.
“We wanted to get it out of reach as soon as we could,” Keys said.
Meanwhile, UF’s first-string defense came away pleased with a first-half shutout.
Defending the slippery quarterback in Will Schneider proved tricky at times, but the Oilers held the Cardinals to 6 of 17 on third down and 1 of 4 on fourth down.
Junior safety Myles Ross led the Oilers with seven tackles, two for loss.
“Right before we went out, (Keys) told us ‘You control the shutout,’” Ross said. “That’s exactly what we wanted to go out there and do because that’s what we’ve be trying to do since the first game, is get that goose egg.”
UF built its peak lead of 58-7 with 14:21 to go
Wilson got in the end zone again on a 2-yard run and Brian Benson scored on a 1-yard plunge to end the scoring for the Oilers.
Benson ran for all of his team-high 75 yards on 12 carries in the second half. Campbell added 64 yards while Wilson had 51.
Schneider threw for 203 yards on 16 of 33 attempts and scrambled for 41 yards on nine tries.
“It was hard,” Ross said. “At the same time, we are a strong defense and we can contain, run to the ball.”
UF was without senior wide receiver Jason Moore for the third straight game.
Senior defensive backs Chewy Chukwuneke and Francis Cutchember were also inactive.
“We’re going to play with the guys that are able to play at this point,” Keys said, declining further comment.