Grizzlies’ QB is prolific passer

His career as a college starter is only six games old. But Chase Burton already is one of the most prolific passers in NCAA Division III.

Heading into today’s homecoming game against Mount St. Joseph, the Franklin College sophomore is second nationally in passing yards and third in touchdown passes and is coming off a perfect performance unmatched this season by any quarterback at any NCAA level.

But Burton’s status among the nation’s elite isn’t what excites the Grizzlies. Rather, it’s the impact it’s had on their success.

Owners of a four-game winning streak and tied for the lead in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Grizzlies (4-2, 4-0 HCAC) have excelled in all phases and are positioned to take another bold step in the race for the league title.

Burton’s passing has been but one component of the success, albeit an important one.

“His confidence is just getting better and better,” Franklin coach Mike Leonard said. “Our offense is expanding as the weeks go on, trying to make us more difficult to defend by having lots of things the defense has to worry about.

“He’s confident in the play calls. He knows what to do. He knows what decisions to make.”

That was clearly evident during last week’s 80-19 road rout of HCAC rival Earlham.

Benefiting from stellar pass protection and pass-catching, Burton, a Corydon Central graduate, completed all 16 of his attempts for 327 yards, six touchdowns and a quarterback efficiency rating of 395.42. The effort not only earned him HCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the third straight week, it stands among the best in the entire NCAA.

Burton’s single-game efficiency rating and 100 percent completion percentage are the highest by any quarterback this season in the NCAA, at any level.

For the season, he ranks second in Division III in passing yards with 1,931; third in touchdown passes with 20; seventh in passing yards per game (321.8); ninth in total offense (330.8); and 10th in completions per game (26.7). He is 12th in completion percentage at .690.

“It’s hard to go 16 for 16 versus no defense, let alone with 11 guys out there,” Leonard said. “The line protected and the receives caught the ball, so it was a team effort.

“But we’re real pleased with how he’s playing.”

Leonard likes the way the entire team is playing — for the most part.

Last week’s 80-point eruption notwithstanding, the Grizzlies gave up three first-half touchdowns that kept the score comparatively close until late in the second quarter. They are determined to avoid such lapses against a much more explosive opponent in Mount St. Joseph’s (3-2, 2-1), which is looking to stay in contention the for the HCAC title.

“There were some mistakes and some glaring weaknesses that came out. We were exposed in certain areas,” Leonard said. “So that’s the fun of coaching, seeing the mistakes that were made on film, trying to figure out how we’re going to correct this. Everybody has a stake in it, players and coaches alike.

“We’ll fix this thing and make the mistakes go away from the film each and every week.”

If you go

What: Mount St. Joseph (3-2, 2-1 HCAC) at Franklin College (4-2, 4-0 HCAC)

When: 1:30 p.m. today, homecoming

Last meeting: Franklin won 38-28 in 2014

All-time series: Franklin leads 11-8

“Barefoot Bowl”: Franklin coach Mike Leonard and Mount St. Joseph coach Rod Huber will coach barefooted during the game to helps raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet, a charity that provides shoes and socks to needy people around the world. Fans can make monetary donations at Faught Stadium prior to kickoff.

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Rick Morwick is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.