Moving the ball hasn’t been much of a problem for the Franklin College football team.
Hanging onto it, however, has been a huge one.
For example, in a season-opening loss against visiting Illinois Wesleyan, the Grizzlies fumbled five times and lost four.
A week later at Butler, Franklin fumbled four times and surrendered each.
Not surprisingly, the Grizzlies (0-2) lost both games.
Consequently, they are looking for a way to hang onto the ball — and pick up their first win — when they host Anderson in tonight’s Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener.
Preseason favorites heading into the season, the Grizzlies are bidding for a sixth straight HCAC championship.
“We know we’ve got a lot of things to work on as we hit conference play,” 13th-year coach Mike Leonard said. “We are definitely not hitting on all cylinders offensively. Turnovers have been our nemesis.
“We’ve been able to move the ball, but turnovers have been deadly the first two games.”
In total, the Grizzlies have committed 11 turnovers in the first two games — eight fumbles and three interceptions.
The good news is, all three interceptions occurred in the opener, the starting debut for sophomore quarterback Chase Burton. He did not throw a pick against Butler.
But fumbles were a recurring problem against the Bulldogs, and the result was a 31-0 halftime deficit the Grizzlies had no chance to rally from.
“We had opportunities (to win) against Illinois Wesleyan,” Leonard said. “Against Butler, we shot ourselves in both feet and both hands.”
Consequently, the Grizzlies stumble into conference play 0-2 — just like they did last year, which proved not to be a harbinger of worse things to come.
Franklin ran the conference table and picked up its fifth straight HCAC title, which was also its seventh in the past eight years.
Though hardly delighted to lose both nonconference games, the Grizzlies understand history is on their side with regard to contending inside the conference.
“We’re encouraged by certain things on our team,” Leonard. “Our defense has done a really good job for the most part against the run and are learning to play coverage against the pass.
“But if you can stop the run, it really gives you a chance to be in every game.”
Yet stopping the pass figures to be the No. 1 challenge against Anderson (0-2), whose quarterback — former Center Grove standout Luke Calvert — has won the starting job after splitting time the first two games.
Coming off a strong performance during last week’s loss against Concordia, the sophomore threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns in that game and has a quarterback efficiency rating of 174.64.
“Anderson has some dangerous weapons,” Leonard said. “Luke Calvert is really playing well at quarterback. He’s very poised, very savvy, and they’ve got some big-play receivers.”
What: Anderson University (0-2) at Franklin College (0-2)
When: 6 tonight
Where: Faught Stadium
Last year’s meeting: Franklin won 62-14
All-time series: Anderson leads 29-25-1