The Little Giant defense roughed up opposing quarterbacks all year. Franklin quarterback Grant Welp learned that lesson Saturday. Six sacks and 11 quarterback hits propelled Wabash to a 33-14 victory.
"If it wasn't for the pressure, he would've thrown for 800 yards it felt like," Wabash Coach Erik Raeburn said. "He was just never missing on any of his throws when he could set his feet. I thought our pressure up front was critical."
Much was made of the Grizzlies' passing offense, but the Little Giants' stout defense withstood the aerial assault. Franklin averaged over 40 points per game in the regular season and 480 yards. It gained 315 yards Saturday as Welp was held to 28-of-53 passing with a touchdown and an interception.
"When it got away from us point wise, we had to throw the ball quite a bit, which is tough under their pressure," Franklin Coach Mike Leonard said. "It's easy to say you have to throw quick and sprint away from pressure, but those things are easier said than done."
As the Little Giants found their offensive mojo, Franklin could not keep pace. The more Welp dropped back, the more he had to pick himself up off of Hollet Little Giant Stadium turf.
"Knowing that you only have to cover for two to three seconds instead of six to seven is huge," Houston Hodges '15 said. "Their receivers got away a couple of times, but the quarterback couldn't look down field. He was constantly worried about our guys running after him."
Hodges, a receiver, double-dipped at cornerback. Hodges played at corner for his first two years. He logged a total of 149 plays, 7 solo tackle 2 pass breakups and 4 catches on the day.
"When he was a freshman, we felt like he was one of the best corners in the league," Raeburn said. "With Franklin's passing attack, we thought we had to use Houston both ways. He's a tough guy and has been begging me to play both ways the whole season. I finally smartened up and did it."
Hodges didn't have many problems with the extra workload. He logged a total of 149 plays, 7 solo tackle 2 pass breakups and 4 catches on the day.
"I felt very comfortable going back to it," Hodges said. "Not very many calls have changed. It just kind of felt like I was going back to my old ways. It was tough because you never get to the sidelines to see what adjustments are being made. You catch those on the fly as you're running between series." He was 2nd on the team in tackles.
Wabash will travel to defending national champion Wisconsin Whitewater Saturday for its second-round matchup. Wisconsin Whitewater is the largest division III left in the play-offs with over 12,000 students while Wabash is the smallest with 902.