BEREA, Ohio -- With memories of last year’s season-opening loss to Bluffton University fresh on their minds, the Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets took to Tressel Field at the George Finnie Stadium with a point to prove against Defiance College Thursday night.
Behind three rushing touchdowns from junior running back Austin Smith and a stout defensive performance, the Yellow Jackets (1-0) opened the 2016 season with a dominating 42-0 win over Defiance (0-1) in the 39th annual Lee Tressel Shrine Classic in Berea.
“It feels great,” Baldwin Wallace coach John Snell said. “Anytime we can start the season off with a win, and a convincing win, is even better. I’m proud of them.
“Last year, we didn’t start the season out very well, so this was obviously a big step forward and something I think we needed as a program, and I’m proud of them. They played hard tonight.”
Smith scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter and staked the Yellow Jackets out to a 14-0 halftime lead over Defiance. Both of his first-half scoring runs were one-yard efforts.
Expected to split time with junior running back Adam Blake, Smith was forced to handle the bulk of the work when his teammate suffered a left leg injury that knocked him out of the game after just one carry, a 12-yard gain in the first quarter.
Smith responded by capping off an 11-play, 61-yard drive with his first scoring run of the season.
Then, after BW cornerback Caray Sparrow recovered a fumble from Defiance’s freshman wide receiver/running back Quenell Rutledge, Smith punctuated an eight-play, 60-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown with seven minutes left in the first half.
On Baldwin Wallace’s first possession of the second half, Smith ran for a 10-yard touchdown, his third and final score of the night.
“He did a great job,” Snell said. “We really felt strongly that we had two really good running backs that could split time and the two of them carry the load together. When Adam went down, that was a blow, and obviously, Austin had to step up and carry it himself, and I thought he did a great job.”
While BW’s offense found the end zone three more times, the defense kept Defiance from crossing the goal line.
BW allowed just 53 rushing yards on 26 carries and 20 completions for 130 yards. Defiance converted just four of its 17 third-down attempts and failed to turn any one of Baldwin Wallace’s three interceptions into points.
“I’m really proud of the defense,” Snell said. “I think we had eight three-and-outs, which is outstanding. Whenever you can put up a shutout, I think that’s a great job.
“Believe it or not, they have some pretty good skill kids. Our kids really did a good job of swarming to the ball, and I thought they did an excellent job of making tackles after the catch, and that’s big. I’m proud of them. They did a heck of a job tonight.”
Following the win over Defiance, Baldwin Wallace has 16 days to prepare for their annual Cuyahoga Gold Bowl matchup against John Carroll at Don Shula Stadium on Saturday, September 17.