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Thursday, May 5, 2016

DePauw drops season opener against St. Olaf

Monday, September 10, 2012

DePauw receiver Jackson Kirtley goes up for a catch during Saturday's opener against St. Olaf. [Order this photo]
Depauw University football dropped its 125th season opener 31-10 to St. Olaf College Saturday afternoon at Blackstock Stadium.

Freshman quarterback Justin Murray got the nod in his first opportunity for the Tigers (0-1), but things didn't get off to the start he and the coaching staff had hoped.

After receiving the opening kickoff, DePauw's first drive of the game stalled after just a handful of positive plays. Facing third and long near midfield, Murray attempted to scramble for the first down marker. Reaching for midfield, the ball was knocked loose and recovered by St. Olaf (2-0) for the first turnover of Murray's DePauw career.

The visitors wasted no time using the turnover to put points on the board. A beautifully lofted pass by Oles playcaller Dan Dobson found its mark downfield, pushing DePauw's defense back to the six yard line. Moments later it was Dobson on the keeper to put St. Olaf up 7-0 with 9:31 left in the first quarter.

DePauw's next drive appeared to be doomed to a punt, but the Oles return man Joel Reinhardt misjudged the kick into the sun, and gunner Kortney Cartwright managed to dive on the loose ball at the St. Olaf two yard line.

A five yard delay of game penalty moved DePauw back to the seven, but Murray found Jackson Kirtley alone in the endzone to tie the game at seven apiece.

"I thought Justin came out and played with confidence today," DePauw headcoach Robby Long said after the game. "He looked like a freshman at times, but looked like a veteran other times."

The teams traded punts on their ensuing possessions before St. Olaf used five consecutive bubble screens to alternating sides of the field to march into DePauw's redzone. From there, the Tiger defense locked down, forcing a STO field goal from 26 yards. The small lead would be one that the Oles would never again reliniquish.

DePauw's defense kept St. Olaf in check for the remainder of the half, but their offense couldn't get rolling. Despite great field position, turnovers and a missed fieldgoal would leave the score at 10-7 going into halftime.

Out of the locker room, each side seemed charged and ready to turn the game into a barn burner. St. Olaf capped a nine-play, 68-yard drive with a Michael Thai one-yard touchdown run to go ahead 17-7. DePauw answered with a 3:32 drive containing a combination of smart passes and well-blocked runs, culminating in a 20 yard field goal by Eric Malm.

But again, the offenses stalled. Neither could generate additional movement through the remainder of the quarter.

As the fourth quarter began, however, St. Olaf again seemed to use the short break to their advantage. What began slowly as time expired in the third turned into a six-plus minute drive of 11 plays and 73 yards, highlighted again by Thai, this time from five yards out.

The 24-10 lead left DePauw deseperate. Murray took a few heavy hits through the third quarter, and Coach Long decided it was time to change tactics.

"He runs the ball a lot and got a little shaken up because of it," Long mentioned. "We thought it was the right time to get Drew (Seaman) in there to try to bring it home.

At the three-minute mark, it was up the to the sophomore to attempt to bring the Tigers back from the brink. Unfortunately, he would only get as close as the 22-yard line.

The new quarterback moved DPU downfield at a fairly rapid pace, using the same no huddle offense Murray had piloted through the earlier portions of the game. But a bad snap pushed the Tigers back to the 35, and a five-yard false start penalty made it third and 28 at the St. Olaf 40.

After a passed was ruled incomplete, much to the amazement of the Tiger faithful, Seaman misread the defense and delivered a strike right to Oles linebacker Jimmy Gildea.

Michael Thai found a gaping whole in the DPU defense on the first play following the turnover, racing 82 yards for the final score of the game, setting the line at 31-10.

"We just were not consistent enough today," Coach Long added. "You cannot win tough football games that way."

Amen Galley led DePauw's stagnet rushing game with 11 carries for 44 yards. Taylor Wagner had seven catches for 72 yards as a receiver, netting 179 all purpose yards as a member of the return team as well. Jordan Hickam, a 2010 Greencastle graduate, had one catch for seven yards.

At quarterback, Murray threw 35 times and completed 18 with 170 total yards through the air, including an interception and a fumble. Seaman threw nine times and completed three for 20 yards in addition to his interception late.

St. Olaf was led offensively by Thai who rushed for 124 yards and caught a pass for 10, while Dobson threw for 212 on 21 of 35 passing, in addition to his 73 yards rushing.

DePauw will play at Wittenberg next Saturday with the start time set for 7 p.m.