Football Rolls Up 508 Yards, 53-12 Win At Wisconsin Lutheran Behind Offensive Line

by Greg Chandler

WAUWATOSA, Wis. - In an impressive display of old-school power football, Hope College dominated the line of scrimmage Saturday as the Flying Dutchmen defeated Wisconsin Lutheran College 53-12 in their final non-conference game of the season.

Hope, now 2-1 on the season, piled up a season-high 508 yards of total offense, including 393 on the ground in 48 attempts for an 8.2-yard per carry average.

Zach Smith posing for a portrait The Flying Dutchmen have a bye week next week before beginning MIAA play on Saturday, September 29 against defending conference champion Trine University. Kickoff is 5 p.m. at Ray and Sue Smith Stadium.

Head coach Peter Stuursma said the offensive line was the key to the Flying Dutchmen's success against Wisconsin Lutheran (0-3).

"We challenged our offensive line this week, all week long, and they stepped up as much as anyone, led by center Zach Smith," Stuursma said. "That's why they got the game ball."

Smith, a junior from Suttons Bay, Michigan (Suttons Bay HS), pictured, anchored the line that also featured strong play from tackles Timothy Ivery of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (Brother Rice HS) and Brady Eding of Hamilton, Michigan (Hamilton HS) and guards Brady Anderson of Beverly Hills, Michigan (Birmingham Groves HS) and Noah de Velder of Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids HS).

Senior running back Mike Miklusicak of Wayland, Michigan (Wayland Union) made a triumphant return in his first game since November 2016, rushing for 125 yards on 12 carries, all in the first half.

After the Warriors took a 6-0 lead on the game's first possession, Hope stormed back with a 60-yard, six-play drive. Sophomore Vinnie Pelione of Warren, Michigan (DeLaSalle Collegiate) capped it with a 21-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 6-6.

Later in the first quarter, Miklusicak dashed 59 yards to paydirt to put the Dutchmen ahead to stay, 13-6.

In the second quarter, an interception by sophomore cornerback Chandler Brown of Woodstock, Georgia (Carlton J. Kell HS) set up Hope at the Wisconsin Lutheran 23. Three plays later, Miklusicak went in from six yards out for his third TD of the day, extending the Hope lead to 20-6.

The Hope special teams got into the act just 35 seconds after Miklusicak's final score with a blocked punt. Senior Logan Shadaia of Lake Orion, Michigan (Lake Orion HS) picked up the loose ball and rumbled 20 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-6.

Wisconsin Lutheran responded with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jake Anderson to Javion Morgan, but Hope had one more scoring drive left in the first half.

On a third-and-17, junior quarterback Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) broke loose for a 39-yard touchdown run, his sixth rushing TD of the season, giving the Dutchmen a 33-12 halftime lead.

Hope tacked on three more scores in the second half – a 12-yard touchdown run by Pelione, a 15-yard scoring pass from Opple to junior Christian Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian HS), and a 4-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Connor Mellon of Adrian, Michigan (Madison HS).

"I was real pleased with the way we controlled the line of scrimmage up front," Stuursma said. "Any time you can get over 500 yards of (total) offense and close to 400 on the ground, that's a pretty nice performance."

Miklusicak, who missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury and did not play in Hope's first two games this season, became the third Flying Dutchmen back in as many weeks to rush for more than 100 yards in a game.

He joined sophomore Pelione (103 yards last week against Defiance, Ohio) and freshman Kenyea Houston 102 yards in the season opener against Millikin, Illinois).

"We knew going in we were going to limit his carries, limit his time, and I think it worked out nicely," Stuursma said of Miklusicak. "He could have played in the second half, but we felt like we had other guys that could certainly carry the ball. Going into the bye week, give him another week and he'll be really solid for us. He was outstanding today. We love to see him back."

In addition to Miklusicak's performance, Opple rushed for 93 yards on eight carries and completed 9-of-12 passes for 102 yards. Pelione had 52 yards on 10 carries and Mellon 45 yards on eight attempts.

Junior Christian Bos of Hudsonville, Michigan (Unity Christian) and junior wide receiver Cooper Cecchini of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) each had four receptions, with Cecchini accumulating 51 yards on his catches and Bos 33.

Defensively, senior defensive end Tate Knapp of Dorr, Michigan (Hamilton HS) led Hope with six solo tackles, including a sack, and junior defensive end Jake Babb of Caledonia, Michigan (Caledonia HS) had five solo stops, two tackles for loss and a sack. Senior defensive back Kyle Krumm of Okemos, Michigan (Okemos HS) recovered a fumble that set up a Hope score.

The game was part of a crossover series featuring teams from the MIAA and Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.