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Football: Weird start turns into season-opening rout

By ANDY WOLF

STAFF WRITER

OWENSBORO, Kentucky — It was among the weirdest first quarters to begin a season.

The University of Findlay’s football team committed three turnovers in it but turned two directly back into a pair of safeties.

While the Oilers led just 11-7 after the first frame, they eventually found their stride and posted a 69-19 victory over Great Midwest Athletic Conference foe Kentucky Wesleyan on Saturday at Steele Stadium.

“The good part about it is we’re taking away a win,” UF coach Rob Keys said. “…Early on, it just wasn’t a real clean start to the game. We had some mistakes. We really were our own worst enemy at the beginning of the game.”

Findlay dominated on both sides of the ball to a 668-90 edge in total yards, including 403-minus-12 edge on the ground as Keys emptied his entire stable of running backs.

Five UF players chipped in at least 49 rushing yards.

Six of their eight rushing touchdowns came in the second half.

“We had eight rushing touchdowns today?” Keys said. “Wow. I didn’t even know. When you run the ball for 400 yards you probably have a good chance to win.

Richard Wilson, a Boston College transfer seeing his first action at UF, led with 101 yards on 12 carries. Wilson split time in the first half with Campbell who posted 96 yards and two scores on 15 carries.

But the Oilers’ seventh-straight season opening win under Keys didn’t start with much conviction.

They held a seemingly conventional 28-7 first-half edge yet it was anything but.

Two safeties played largely into it and they were stuck on 11 points for almost a full quarter.

UF got the ball first and was on the scoring track, quickly moving into KWC territory.

However, the Panthers caught a break and recovered a Jacob Boucher fumble at their own 5-yard line.

The Oilers stood tall on defense, forcing a three-and-out and catching a break as the snap sailed high over KWC punter Taylor Soper’s head for a safety.

UF got the ball right back and looked to build on its 2-0 lead.

Michael Campbell scored from 9 yards out 1:36 later to extend UF’s lead at 9-0.

The Oilers were on the move again one series later until Gervais was intercepted at the 3-yard line by Alijah McGhee.

After a pair of illegal procedure penalties, UF rushed KWC quarterback Mark McGee and Cyle Skidmore knocked the ball loose and out of the back of the end zone for another safety.

“We had two safeties and I don’t think the defense had a safety last year,” Keys said. “Speaking, of the defense, I thought they played a really good game. They controlled the line of scrimmage and when the defense can put up 10 points, that’s a pretty good deal.”

UF’s final drive of the first quarter ended on another Gervais interception, looking for Luke Stuffel but McGhee stepped in for the turnover.

On the very next play, McGee floated one to an open De’Ondre Boggs in the end zone for the 21-yard touchdown strike.

The ship got back on course as UF scored 17 points in the final 1:04 in the first half.

Campbell scored on an 8-yard run for a 18-7 lead. And after a botched kickoff return by the Panthers that set them up on their one 1-yard-line, Skidmore recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown two plays later.

Chris Demler drilled 40-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

UF was without All-American wide receiver Jason Moore as he was “not able to play this game” according to Keys.

The Oilers’ receiving corps took another hit when 6-foot-5 junior Drew Ogletree hobbled off the field after making a 39-yard catch on their opening drive. He didn’t return as Keys decided to keep him out.

Jacob Hill led UF with 48 receiving yards, 41 off a touchdown strike from Adam Bertke in the third quarter.

Senior running back Chauncey Bridges (seven carries, 49 yards), back from missing 10 games due to injury in 2017, scored on a 9-yard run for his 22nd career touchdown.

Nate Slagel tacked on a 19-yard scoring run in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, UF’s Demondre Blanks (nine carries, 57 yards) had a 30-yard touchdown run while Brian Benson (9-63) had touchdowns of 3 and 1 yards. Both reached the end zone for the first time in their careers.

Findlay 11 17 21 20 — 69

Kentucky Wesleyan 7 0 6 6 — 13

First Quarter

UF — Safety

UF — Campbell 1 rush (Demler kick)

UF — Safety

KWC — Boggs 21 pass from McGee (Logsdon kick)

Second Quarter

UF — Campbell 9 run (Demler kick)

UF — Skidmore 0 fumble recovery (Demler kick)

UF — Demler 40 FG

Third Quarter

UF — Bridges 9 run (Demler kick)

KWC — Kirk 35 interception return (kick failed)

UF — Hill 41 pass from Bertke (Demler kick)

UF — Slagel 19 run (Demler kick)

Fourth Quarter

UF — Blanks 30 run (Demler kick)

UF — Benson 3 run (Demler kick)

KWC — Byrd 1 run (kick failed)

UF — Benson 1 run (kick failed)

Individual statistics

rushing — Findlay, Wilson 12-101, Campbell 15-96, Benson 9-63, Blanks 9-57, Bridges 7-49, Bertke 2-28, Slagel 1-19, Howard 1-8, Hill 1-(minus-8). Kentucky Wesleyan, Johnson 8-19, Byrd 8-13, Thomas 6-10, Taylor 1-2, Soper 1-(minus-7), McGee 6-(minus-22), Austin 4-(minus-27).

passing — Findlay, Gervais 20-27-217-2, Bertke 2-3-48-1. Kentucky Wesleyan, McGee 5-12-94-0, Austin 1-2-8-0.

receiving — Findlay, Allton 4-41, Boucher 4-29, Caldwell 3-19, Ogletree 2-46, Stuffel 2-27, Wilson 2-14, Slagel 1-13, Densel 1-11, Norris 1-17. Kentucky, Boggs 3-80, Greer 2-14, Barnes 1-8.