For the Daily Journal
INDIANAPOLIS — With two nonconference football games behind them, the Franklin College Grizzlies have one goal and only one goal: Win a seventh straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and earn another berth to the national playoffs.
The business at hand starts this week with a trip to Defiance on Saturday to open league play.
After upsetting No. 11 Division III Thomas More a week ago, the No. 19 Grizzlies fell to NCAA Division I FCS foe Butler on Saturday night at the Butler Bowl, 59-14.
Immediately after the game and still on the field, Franklin’s 14-year coach Mike Leonard told his team: “This is not the way we planned it. Nobody thought this would happen.
“We’ve got some things to fix. Nothing major,” he said. “But it all starts here with our attitude.”
The Grizzlies (1-1) were chasing fleet-footed senior quarterback Malcolm Weaver for most of the game without success.
Weaver accounted for 280 passing yards and three first-half touchdowns. His performance through the air was largely matched by Franklin junior quarterback Chase Burton, who threw for 247 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Bulldogs, though, pressured Burton into two interceptions and registered four sacks, two by senior captain Jordan Ransone.
Franklin pulled within 28-14 midway through the second quarter on a 30-yard touchdown pass to junior Lee Wroblewski and a 28-yard strike to junior Deontez Alexander, but it was not enough.
Butler (1-1) added two touchdowns in the final 1:59 before halftime to take a commanding 42-14 advantage.
An interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter capped off the Bulldogs’ explosive night.
With only the final score to be determined, both teams substituted freely in the final quarter of action.
Turning his attention to next week, Leonard said preparation for conference play begins now.
“We’re sitting pretty in D-III right where we’re at,” he said. “We’re going to move on and stay positive.
“The Heartland Conference is on our back. Everybody wants a piece of the Griz. I’m not worried about anybody else. When we leave here, we hold our heads up high, because we’re champions.”