Offensive Explosion Guides Crusaders to Big Opening Day Win

Quarterback Chase Longwell. (Jeff Mills photo).
Quarterback Chase Longwell. (Jeff Mills photo).
RICHMOND, Ind. – On the ground or through the air, the offense for the Capital University football team could not be stopped during its 54-20 drubbing of Earlham College. Chase Longwell totaled more than 350 yards of total offense and was one of two players with over 150 yards on the ground, adding to a record-setting day in the Crusaders' statement win to open the season.

The Crusaders (1-0) amassed 735 total yards on offense, 537 of those coming on the ground. Both of those numbers set new school records in their respective categories. The team rushing mark had stood more than 50 years until Saturday afternoon. The previous team rushing record was 510 yards set against Kenyon College on Oct. 19, 1963. Their 735 yards of total offense smashed the previous record of 674 yards set nearly two decades ago against Heidelberg University (Sept. 30, 1995). Capital recorded over 500 yards of offense just once all of last season.

While neither team put a point on the board in the first quarter, the Crusaders exploded for 27 in the second quarter to set the tone for the duration of the game. Longwell (Hilliard, Ohio/Darby) began his career day and a string of 20 unanswered Capital points with an eight-yard touchdown run. The scoring play capped off an 11-play, 90-yard drive that spanned 5:29 of game clock. However, that served as only their second-longest drive of the day, in terms of yardage.

Longwell broke off his longest run of the day on the team's next scoring drive, but that could not have happened without a strong display of defense that stopped the Quakers in their tracks. Facing fourth down and seven yards to go, the Quakers' Tre Stephens was stopped for no gain by Marcus Avery Jr. (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Vince Austin (Highland Heights, Ohio) to force a turnover on downs. After the offense retook the field, Longwell rattled off a 13- and then a touchdown-scoring, 56-yard run, in succession, to put Capital up two scores.

Immediately following the touchdown run, the defense answered the call again by matching Longwell's scoring effort. On Earlham's second play on their next offensive drive, Quakers quarterback Brennan Laird was tackled for a loss but fumbled the football at his own 16-yard line. Bryant Bokovitz (Gallipolis, Ohio/Galia Academy) scooped up the loose ball and took it to the house to add to Capital's lead. The ensuing extra-point attempt was blocked, leading to a 20-0 score with 3:30 left in the opening half.

Earlham (0-2) did get on the board before the close of the half, but the Crusaders answered their score to take a three-touchdown advantage into the locker room. It took them just 1:02 to march down the field before Brent Walton (Pickerington, Ohio/Central) punched in a three-yard run for six points.

The assault did not stop there, though Earlham amped up its pressure by going to the air more in the second half. After Longwell hit Jake Skelton (Madison, Ohio / Madison) for the first of his two touchdown receptions on the day, Earlham scored on two consecutive drives, once through the air and once on the ground. That closed the gap to 14 points, 34-20, but Capital continued to pour on yards and points to maintain a comfortable lead.

While the Crusaders racked up more than 500 yards on the ground, two of its final three drives ended in touchdown passes. Each of those passes went for more than 50 yards and went to different receivers each time.

Midway through the fourth quarter, a 55-yard strike from Longwell to Skelton appeared to distance the two teams for good. That touchdown pass put Capital up 41-20 but the offense still was not done.

After sophomore Jimmy Curtis (Hilliard, Ohio/Davidson) picked off a pass deep in Capital territory to turn the ball back over to the offense, the Crusaders went 97 yards in just four plays to account for Longwell's third and final touchdown pass of the day. This time, the sophomore hit junior Jake Breakey (Pickerington, Ohio/North) in stride down the right side for the score.

On Capital's final scoring drive that put them over the 50-point barrier, Walton broke off a 42-yard run that helped him finish as the Crusaders' leading rusher on the day.

Many Crusaders set new career highs on an individual level. Longwell posted new personal game bests in touchdown passes thrown (3), rushing yards (164), rushing touchdowns (2), total touchdowns (5), and completions (8).

Skelton made five catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs.

Walton finished with a new career high 171 yards while tying a career best in rushing touchdowns (2). All of this was done on 20 carries.

On the defensive side, Curtis led the Crusaders with nine total tackles, three pass break ups, and one interception.

On the defensive line, Jared Johns (Hilliard, Ohio/Davidson) had a dominating day with 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, and six total tackles. He was part of a defensive front that allowed just 27 yards to the running back tandem of Tre Stephens and Levi Hansen.

Shawn Facione and Joe Rodriguez matched Johns with six tackles apiece.

The Crusaders tallied four total sacks on Earlham quarterback Brennan Laird while allowing just one on their side of the line.

Laird was the primary source of offense for the Quakers, marking up 336 yards and two scores through the air by hitting on 24-for-43 passing attempts. He was also their leading rusher with 36 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries.

By scoring 54 points against the Quakers it marked the first time Capital had scored 50 or more points in a game in almost four years. The last time that had occurred was on Oct. 2, 2010 in a losing effort to Heidelberg University, 60-50. Last year, Capital did not hit the 50-point plateau all season and scored over 40 points just twice.

Capital's next test comes in the form of another set of Quakers, this time from Wilmington College. The Crusaders defeated Wilmington in last year's season finale 41-27. They will host the Quakers and attempt to extend its current three-game winning streak dating back to last season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Bernlohr Stadium.