GAMBIER, Ohio — The Kenyon College football team did its part to add to the College’s campus-wide celebrations of Homecoming weekend by handing Hiram College a 40-16 defeat. The Owls were clicking on all cylinders in all three facets of the game as the offense, defense, and special teams units contributed to the big win.
The victory is Kenyon’s first this season, boosting the team’s record to 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC). The Terriers also entered the day without a win, and Hiram fell to 0-5 (0-3 NCAC) this year.
The Owls set season bests for both points scored (40) and points allowed (16), and the game featured plenty of highlights in all areas. Jordon Benjamin continued to pace the Owls offense as the running back racked up 152 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. First-year Nolan Dirks stepped up and filled a significant role as the second member of the Owls’ typical two-headed running attack, compiling season-highs of 22 carries and 88 yards while scoring the first two touchdowns of his collegiate career.
Overall, the Owls outgained Hiram 253-116 on the ground. The strong running game helped Kenyon win the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes, as did the Owls’ impressive 10-18 conversion percentage on third downs. On the other side, Kenyon’s defense held the Terriers to 3-12 on third down and 0-3 on fourth down.
The defense made a major impact on the game’s first drive as Kenyon’s Jaylen Cardoso intercepted a pass on the second offensive play, giving the Owls the ball in plus territory. Benjamin ran the ball five straight times, capping the 35-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run just three minutes into the game.
Quarter two started similarly as the Owls scored on their first possession. After setting up the play action with four consecutive runs, Henry Wendorf lofted a long pass to a wide-open Dylan Carlquist, who hauled in the 39-yard touchdown. Carlquist led the Owls with five catches and finished with a game-high 85 receiving yards.
Despite Kenyon’s 14-0 start, Hiram chipped away with a 25-yard field goal before a 22-yard touchdown run cut the Owls’ lead to 14-9 with two minutes left in the half. Not looking to concede momentum, Kenyon’s two-minute offense drove the ball into Hiram territory, where first-year kicker Tyler Bell booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired that put the Owls ahead 17-9 at the break.
The big kick sparked Kenyon’s momentum, which exploded in the third quarter as the Owls outscored Hiram 16-0 in the frame. Dirks and Benjamin each punched in touchdowns, and Andy Canonico tackled a Terriers player in the end zone for a safety after a punt from Park Penrod pinned Hiram at their own one-yard line.
Kenyon kept it rolling in the fourth, running time off the clock while Dirks ran in another touchdown. The score put the Owls ahead 40-9 late in the game, and the final margin was 40-16 after a long Terriers touchdown run in the final minute.
Defensively, Canonico led the Owls with seven tackles, including five solo tackles, and had one for loss. Tommy Iannuzzi and Luke Caress each secured one sack, and Caress tied Cole Garrison for the team lead with two quarterback hurries. Jackson McCullough broke up two passes while Kendall Weaver and Jackson Belyn each notched one, and Kenyon’s pass defense held Hiram to a .469 (15-32) completion percentage and just 192 yards.
The Owls’ special teams unit shined as well. In addition to Bell’s long field goal, Penrod placed five of his six punts inside the 20-yard line, forcing the Terriers to start deep in their own territory and helping Kenyon win the field position battle.
Next week, the Owls head to Delaware, Ohio, to take on Ohio Wesleyan University (2-3, 1-2 NCAC) on Saturday, October 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.