Manchester football photo
The Manchester Spartans battled Franklin College in a grizzly game that resulted in an MU victory. This is the team’s first win of the season.
Photo by MU Athletics

MU Spartans Find Victory in Adapting to Strengths of Athletes

Ian Snelling

It is not how you start that matters, but how you finish. Coach Nate Jensen and the Manchester University Spartan football team started the season off rough, with a record of 0-3. Accumulating losses to Trine University, Alma College and Olivet College. Manchester had a bye week following its last loss. “We went back to the basics, back to competing in every drill, every team session, and every special team,” Jensen said.

After taking a heavy loss to Olivet College, a score of 59-7, the Black and Gold turned it around the following week, upsetting rival Franklin College on Saturday. “We have been working on Franklin for two weeks,” Jensen said. “We have switched some things up with our schemes and personnel and continue to adapt to the strengths of our student athletes.”

At the end of the day, there were certain aspects the Black and Gold remained loyal to. “Start Fast, Compete, 100% Effort,” Jensen said. Remaining loyal to those goals paid off for the Spartans when they defeated Franklin on its own turf at Faught Stadium in an overtime thriller, 27-24. Andrew Kibler, senior kicker from Cape Coral, Florida, booted a career-long 49-yard field goal for the win.

Manchester dominated play for the rest of the first half after scoring on its first drive of the game. First-year student Quentin Willis, from Athens, Georgia, recovered a poorly snapped ball by Franklin for a touchdown. Franklin’s following possession ended in an interception by the Manchester defense. Dane Andrews’ pass was intercepted, and it was returned 15 yards to the Grizzlies’ 21-yard line by junior Devontay Moore. The Spartans capitalized on the turnover with a 31-yard field goal by Kibler.

Halfway through the second half, first-year student Trevor O’Brien II threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to senior Joseph Powell, resulting in a 16-7 lead which the Spartans would hold on to going into halftime.

Franklin scored 17 consecutive points after the interval to take a 24-16 advantage. At 11:26 of the third quarter, Dane Andrews connected with Jarret Gibson from 6 yards out. Derek Baldin kicked a 38-yard field goal later in the third quarter. After a 2-yard rush by Garrett Cora late in the third period, Franklin scored another touchdown.

The Spartans were able to hold off Franklin’s third-quarter barrage and tie the game at 7:36 in the fourth quarter. First-year student from Indianapolis, David Smith, rushed for a one-yard touchdown to bring the game to 24-22, in favor of Franklin. Jensen made the call for Manchester’s offense to stay on the field, resulting in tight end Justin Abiagom, from Chicago, Illinois, grabbing O’Brien’s throw for the two-point conversion. Following the game-tying touchdown, Manchester’s defense stood firm, allowing the Grizzlies only two more first downs for the remainder of the quarter. Manchester’s defense came up huge again in overtime, as the Grizzlies were stopped on their first possession of the extra period.

Following the valuable stop, Kibler came up clutch, converting on a career long 49-yard field goal for Manchester first win of the season. Manchester moves to 1-0 in conference play following the victory over Franklin.

The Spartans will next face Defiance at home, for Homecoming on Oct. 9, at 1:30 p.m.