FINDLAY, Ohio – A strong second half vaulted the host Findlay Oilers to a 48-27 over Lake Erie on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore running back Daiquone Ford tallied six touchdowns and 317 rushing yards, as the Oilers (5-3, 3-3 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) turned away the Storm after battling in a near-even first half. Lake Erie's high-octane offense was held to 376 yards in the contest.
"It was frustrating," said Head Coach Mark McNellie. "We couldn't get all phases of our game going in the right direction. It's tough to keep momentum when that happens."
The Storm (2-6, 1-5) did have the momentum of the game in the early going. When Anthony Bilal scored from one yard out with 8:39 remaining in the second quarter, LEC had built itself a 21-13 lead. But the Oilers – now winners of four of their last five games – responded with back-to-back touchdowns late in the first half. Those scores wrested the momentum away from the Storm, and the second half would be more of the same.
For a second straight week, Lake Erie was a minus-3 in turnover margin. Quarterback Brendan Gallagher went 29-of-42 for 234 yards and one TD. He threw three interceptions.
Ford and the Oilers opened the game's scoring with a 10-yard TD run at 12:34 in the first quarter. That scamper capped off a 36-yard drive. UF would go on to notch four more scoring drives under 50 yards in a game.
Lake Erie countered the early Findlay touchdown with a marvelous 15-play, 75-yard march down the field. The balanced and dominant drive culminated with Bilal running three yards to paydirt at the 7:14 mark.
The two GLIAC South foes then traded TDs, but another Bilal rushing score – the DII-leading 17th of the season for the sophomore – vaulted LEC to a 21-13 lead midway through the second stanza.
The rest of the first half would belong to the home side. Findlay scored twice in the final 3:14 of the half to take a 27-21 lead into halftime.
The Lake Erie defense forced a punt in the first Oiler possession of the second half, and the Storm offense capitalized by peppering the UF defense with an array of mid-yardage runs and passes in a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. The drive was capped off when Aaron Lindgren bolted into the end zone from 15 yards out. The TD was Lindgren's second of the game; he was on the receiving end of a Brendan Gallagher touchdown toss on the first play of the second quarter and would finish the contest with 31 rushing and 34 receiving yards.
That touchdown – and a subsequent failed extra point – knotted the score at 27-27. And it would be the last digits Lake Erie would post on the Donnell Stadium scoreboard on an overcast, windswept day in Western Ohio.
The LEC defense pitched a three-and-out in Findlay's ensuing possession, but Gallagher was then intercepted at the Storm 28 in Lake Erie's counter. Mo
Moments later, on his fourth TD run of the day, Findlay went up, 33-27. The Oilers wouldn't relinquish the lead the rest of the way.
Ford scored again – on a 91-yard back-breaker – at 4:04 of the third. He scored his sixth and final TD on a 2-yard run early in the fourth. His final line showed 317 rushing yards on 44 carries.
Finlay quarterback Devontae Payne was effective in running an Oiler offense that produced 495 total yards. Payne passed for 70 yards and ran for another 92. As a team, Findlay ran for 425 yards on 60 carries.
The Storm ran for 142 and passed for 234. A solid Findlay pass rush led to three interceptions while yielding six sacks.
Brendan Gallagher ran the ball 12 times for 70-plus yards. His final line, including sack yardage, amounted to 44 yards on 18 carries. Anthony Bilal netted 23 yards on 11 carries.
Tommy Jackson hauled in 12 passes in the game, 10 in the first half. The dozen catches mark the most in a Storm game since 2011 when Brandon James caught 14 in a late-October (Oct. 22) game against Findlay.
Time and time again in the game the Green & White were stymied on third-down plays. The Storm converted on just 3-of-13 attempts on the penultimate down.
Defensively, Lake Erie was paced by a big effort from linebacker Marcus Rogers, who set a new program record with 19 total tackles.
The high winds created a wild game in the special-teams department. LEC had two fake punts – one successful and the other not – and multiple kicks, punts and extra-point became an adventure for the 11 warriors on both sides.
The Green & White came into the game averaging 578.4 yards per contest, a lofty total that ranked third in the nation. The Storm offense showed flashes of the offense that piled up those numbers. But turnovers and a strong second-half effort by Findlay served to short-circuit the quick-punch Storm offense and add a game to LEC's loss column.