Owensboro, KY – For the seventh time in eight seasons under Rob Keys, the University of Findlay football team began their season with a win. On Saturday, Sep. 1, the Oilers, ranked 25th in the country in the American Football Coaches' Association (AFCA) Preseason Poll, traveled south to take on Kentucky Wesleyan and came away with a 69-19 victory over the Panthers, who were picked last in the league's preseason poll. While the 69 points are eye-popping, it was the defense that stood tall against the Panthers, hoding the Purple and White to -9 rushing yards and just 91 total yards in the contest. It was the first time since Oct. 28, 2006 against Ashland that the Oilers held a team to less than 100 yards (61 yards) of total offense and negative rushing yards (-11 rushing yards). With the Great Midwest Athletic Conference win, the Oilers begin their season 1-0 while KWC falls to 0-1.
The Oilers began with the ball and quickly drove into Panther territory before a fumble gave KWC the ball inside the ten yard line. Taking the field for the first time this season, the Findlay defense stood tall as they forced a three-and-out. On the punt attempt, the Panthers' long-snapper sailed the ball over his punter for a safety, the first for the Oilers since Sep. 19, 2009 against Ferris State, to give Findlay a 2-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, senior Michael Campbell pounded the ball into the end zone for the first touchdown of the season, giving Findlay a 9-0 lead.
The game slowed down as neither team scored for the next seven minutes of action.
With 40 seconds left in the first quarter, Findlay's defense decided that nine years between safeties was too long and they sacked KWC quarterback Mike McGee in his own end zone for the second safety of the quarter, a new G-MAC record.
Just 14 seconds later, the Panthers scored a touchdown of their own and cut Findlay's lead to 11-7 through one quarter of play.
That score would remain for the majority of the second quarter as neither team put points on the board until there was just 1:04 remaining in the half. Campbell rushed nine yards for his second touchdown of the day to extend Findlay's lead to 18-7. 11 seconds later, Findlay's defense came up big again. Findlay forced a fumble in the Panthers' end zone and senior Cyle Skidmore pounced on the ball for a touchdown.
A turnover gave Findlay the ball back and kicker Chris Demler nailed a career-long 40-yard field goal as the clock expired to give the Oilers a 28-7 lead at the break.
From then on it was all Oilers. Findlay would score six touchdowns in the second half, highlighted by a big 41-yard pass from Adam Bertke to Jacob Hill with 9:51 to play in the third and a 30-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore Demondre Blanks.
Findlay dominated the ground game as they rushed the ball 59 times for 384 yards while the Panthers managed a negative nine yards on 34 carries. Through the air, the Oilers connected on 22-of-30 for 277 yards.
One of the best offenses in the country a season ago, the Oilers came out hot again, posting 661 yards of total offense, the first time since Sep. 24 of 2016 that the Orange and Black tallied more than 600 yards in that category. But it was the defense that perhaps made the biggest statement. Findlay allowed just 91 yards of total offense in the contest, the least yards allowed in the Rob Keys era.
Senior Rhys Gervais completed 21-28 passes for 236 yards and one score while throwing a pair of interceptions. Fellow senior quarterback Adam Bertke also saw action and connected on one of his two pass attempts a 41-yard touchdown pass. The wealth was shared as six Oilers' receivers had 25 or more receiving yards.
Senior Michael Campbell led the team with 16 carries, 104 yards, and a pair of touchdowns in the game while junior Richard Wilson carried the ball 12 times for 101 yards. Sophomore Brian Benson entered the game late and tallied 63 yards a two touchdowns.
Junior Justin Ellis led the squad with six tackles and a G-MAC record, four-and-a-half tackles for loss that included a pair of sacks. Senior Cyle Skidmore and sophomore Kyle Gibson had four tackles, apiece. Skidmore had two-and-a-half sacks while Gibson had two.
Findlay will face a tough test next Saturday, Sep. 8 when they travel to take on Ferris State, currently ranked no. 8 in the country. That game will begin at 7:00 pm.