GRANVILLE, Ohio-- Alex Minton broke the single-season record for rushing yards and touchdowns as Denison exploded for 36 unanswered points in the second half, resulting in a 52-13 victory over Kenyon College.
Minton rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, surpassing Clay Sampson's single-season rushing record (1,517 yards) and Eric Ivary's single-season rushing touchdown mark (17). Minton's season ends with 1,550 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns.
The victory, combined with a DePauw victory over Wabash in the 126th Monon Bell game clinched a share of the 2019 North Coast Athletic Conference Championship for the Big Red. Denison, Wittenberg, and Wabash all finish the year at 7-2 in conference play. The Little Giants receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs via head-to-head tiebreakers. This is Denison's second-straight NCAC Championship and the fourth NCAC title for the Big Red since the formation of the conference in 1984.
Things were a little dicey for the Big Red late in the second quarter. After a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kenyon's Sam Dickey, the Lords found themselves out in front, 13-7 with 1:41 left in the half.
The lead was short-lived. Eleven seconds later, Peyton Vining fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 9-yard line and returned it 91 yards for a touchdown, putting the Big Red back in the lead, 14-13. A 23-yard field goal by Pat Kramer with 29 seconds left in the second quarter put DU on top by four.
The third quarter was all Denison. The Big Red outgained Kenyon 233-1 in the period. Denison ran 21 plays with 14 going to Minton on the ground. The senior racked up 137 of his 255 yards rushing in the quarter. He scored his second touchdown of the afternoon on an 11-yard run with 6:30 to play in the third.
Senior Sam Looker hauled in his first career touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Denison quarterback Drew Dawkins early in the quarter. Dawkins followed with a 42-yard TD pass to Vining to round out the scoring in the third.
The Denison defense limited Kenyon to 213 yards of total offense for the game. Lords quarterback Thomas Merkle was 27-of-57 for 190 yards and a touchdown. Kenyon managed only 23 rushing yards, marking the seventh time this season the Denison defense has held the opposition to under 100 yards rushing. For the season, offenses averaged only 80.9 yards per game, on the ground.
Chris Negrete led the way with nine tackles and two tackles for loss. Cory Swartzmiller had seven stops and Nate Keirn finished with four tackles, one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Keirn leaves Denison as the all-time leader in sacks with 36.0. Francis Fay had the lone interception for the Big Red in the first quarter.
Minton's 255 yards rushing was a new career-high. It is the fourth 200-yard rushing game of his career, tying him with Chris Spriggs for the most in Denison history. In three seasons at Denison, Minton has rushed for 3,919 yards and 44 touchdowns. He ranks third in career rushing yards and is the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns. On 616 career carries, Minton was stopped for a loss only 13 times. He averaged an outstanding 6.4 yards per carry for his career, which is also a new program record.
Vining led the receivers with three receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. He ends the regular season as Division III's leader with 26.7 yards per reception. Dawkins was 11-of-19 for 183 yards and two TD's.
Prior to the start of the game, Denison said goodbye to its 26-member senior class comprised of comprised of Matt Ambrosino, Neal Austria, Benton Bair, Brad Baldinger, Alex Balogh, Brendan Boyle, Will Brady, Rodger Brown, Ben Cross, Harrison Hartong, Nate Keirn, Dara Laja, Jordan Lobel, Sam Looker, Mitch Marston, Parker McDaniel, Alex Minton, Calvin Montgomery, Preston Ott, Will Poffenberger, Michael Rauen, Jarod Scheff, Chase Struewing, Eric Trenz, Andrew Zellers, and Frank Zoltan.
Denison's season ends with a record of 8-2, marking the second-straight eight-win season for the Big Red and the third eight-win season since 2016. Over the last four seasons, DU has gone 31-10 with two NCAC championships.