By Mike DeVader, Reinhardt Director of Athletic Communications & Media
INDIANAPOLIS – After shocking the stadium with a 92-yard kickoff return by Otis Odom on the game's first play in the cold rain, Reinhardt couldn't capitalize on additional opportunities to stretch its early lead, as second-ranked Marian (Ind.) came from behind to escape the 13th-ranked Eagles in the NAIA Football Championship Series First Round, 17-7.
"We played our butts off on defense but did not play well enough on offense to win the game," head coach James Miller said. "We put ourselves behind the sticks far too often or had a mental bust to move the sticks. They are too good on defense to make mistakes like that. I loved our effort on both sides of the ball, as effort and fight were there; execution was not. I want to thank our seniors that have been unbelievable this season – one of the best senior classes ever – thank you."
The 2019 season comes to a close at 9-3 for the hometown squad, as Reinhardt had a pair of interceptions in the opening quarter, including one by Jalen Everett that was returned all the way to the Knights' 3-yard-line – putting the Eagles in prime position for a 14-0 advantage with just over five minutes gone in the opening quarter.
A false start immediately pushed back the visitors from the goal line, and three plays later, Trevae Cain gave the ball right back to Marian with a fumble.
The Reinhardt defense, however, continued to rise to the occasion against a powerful running attack from the host Knights, and got the ball back to the offense. Unfortunately for the Eagles, their offense couldn't find a rhythm all afternoon – and totaled just 89 yards on 45 plays.
Marian would tie the game at 7-7 late in the opening period after a 62-yard drive was capped off by an 18-yard over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown.
Reinhardt would sustain its best drive on the next possession and eventually put itself in position for a go-ahead field goal, but a 39-yarder hooked to the left off the leg of Alex Hardy.
The missed attempt would be the final chance the Eagles would eventually have to score the rest of the way, as the Knights took the ensuing drive and went 75 yards in nearly nine minutes to add a field goal from 20 yards out for a 10-7 lead heading into halftime.
Both clubs would struggle out of the gate to get anything going in the third quarter, and then a Billy Hall interception put Marian in position to put the game away. The Reinhardt defense again flexed its muscles and allowed no points after the Knights went for it on fourth down at the 3-yard-line and lost three yards on a run attempt to the outside on the 11th play of the drive.
The offense would continue to gain no traction in regard to production, and time-after-time give the ball back to the Marian offense in good position. The Knights, who struggled with special teams, decided to go for it again on a fourth-and-seven in the red zone, but JT Graydon stormed through with a sack.
A screen pass to the left sideline would again come up short and force another punt. This time, however, Marian would break through and essentially end the contest after a broken tackle turned into a 32-yard score with under four minutes remaining in the matchup.
Reinhardt accumulated just 84 yards rushing on 40 carries.