Last Saturday, Oct. 21, the Hope College football team traveled to Angola, Indiana to face off against MIAA opponent Trine University. This matchup was widely thought to be the final test standing between the Flying Dutchmen and their first MIAA championship in 10 years. The challenge proved to be too much, however, as the Dutchmen fell to the Thunder, 50-14, in what will likely be considered Hope’s toughest game of the 2017 season. This was a difficult game for the Dutchmen, from start to finish and on both sides of the ball. Trine was prepared for this matchup and brought a degree of strength, experience and finesse that made them difficult foes to handle. Hope has been able to play with or above every team they faced this year. Against Trine, however, Hope appeared to be simply outplayed for the first time in their successful 2017 campaign.
The Hope offense played slow throughout the game on Saturday, never fully capturing a successful rhythm. Hope claimed just 265 yards of total offense; their poorest performance so far this season. The Dutchmen scored two touchdowns, both in the second quarter of play. Both were goal-line keepers from quarterback Mason Opple (’20). Opple went 10-of-25 for 146 yards against the Thunder, with Kurtis Slenk (’18) receiving 101 of those yards. On the ground, Hope rushed for only 86 yards—a debilitatingly low number for an offense that has been led, in large part, by the rushing power of Brandan Campbell (’18) and Chris Leigh (’18). The Trine defense held Campbell to just 42 yards and Leigh to 25. The loss of the run game put Hope at a disadvantage when attempting to convert third downs, which they did at a 27% success rate.
Turnovers were not friends of the Dutchmen, either, on Saturday. Opple threw one interception and Hope fumbled three times, losing every one. Two of the fumbles led to Trine touchdowns on subsequent possessions. These critical mistakes, along with Hope’s inability to gain any kind of momentum on the offensive end, led to a rather quieter game from the Dutchmen than Hope fans have become accustomed to this season.
The Dutchmen defense started out on a weaker note than they have in recent weeks, giving up a Trine touchdown on the Thunder’s first possession. Hope would give up another two touchdowns against the Thunder in the first quarter and a fourth early in the second. Hope was defensively put on their heels when met with a speedy and fast-paced Trine running game led by Lamar Carswell, coupled with some spot-on and timely connections for Trine quarterback Evan Wyse.
The Thunder picked apart the Hope defense up front with the normally formidable defensive line and linebacker squad unable to adjust to the finesse and agility of the experienced running back Carswell. The Trine offense also found ways to pick apart the secondary coverage, often allowing Wyse to hit wide-open receivers with ease. The Thunder ran a faster-paced offense than any opponent the Dutchmen have faced this year, and Hope was left reeling.
This loss will put Hope in a waiting-game situation when it comes to the MIAA title, which has eluded the Dutchmen since 2007. Trine plays Adrian, Alma and Olivet within the remaining three weeks of the regular season. If the Thunder remain unbeaten throughout these MIAA matchups, they will win the outright MIAA title. However, should Trine fall to a team Hope has already beaten, the MIAA might have co-champions this year. Unfortunately, Hope’s loss to Trine takes the ability to claim the outright championship completely out of Hope’s hands. They must wait, win their remaining matchups and hope that Trine falls somewhere along the line. Despite the disheartening outcome of Saturday’s game, head coach Peter Stuursma remains focused on the future, tweeting, “I love our team. We will respond. #ifitwereeasyanyonecoulddoit!” The Dutchmen will face off against Albion this coming Saturday, Oct. 28, at Kalamazoo College and will return to Hope on Nov. 4 for Senior Day.