Jordan Brown ran for a career-high 121 yards and two touchdowns to lead Franklin to its first win of the season, 42-12, against visiting Defiance in the Grizzlies’ conference opener on Saturday.
Brown helped ease the early absence of starting quarterback Chase Burton, who sat the first quarter due to a coach’s decision. The senior from Indianapolis scored Franklin’s first touchdown of the game, a dive over two defenders early in the second quarter, then added a second TD in the third as the Grizzlies blew open the game.
“We started off 0-2 and we knew we had to regroup. As captains, we got together last week and decided we needed to take it step by step,” Brown said. “Chase wasn’t in so everybody stepped up and filled in. It fell on me, it fell on the O-line and Braden Smith stepped up as the backup quarterback and did a tremendous job.”
With Burton, who entered the game atop the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in yards and touchdowns, watching from the sidelines, Franklin struggled on its first two offensive series. The Grizzlies (1-2, 1-0) turned the ball over on downs inside the Defiance 5-yard line, and Smith threw an interception on the second.
But on the third series, Franklin put the ball in Brown’s hands and he responded, carrying the Grizzlies down the field during a tough 10-play drive. He then capped the drive with his diving touchdown to give Franklin a 7-0 lead.
“I did what I had to do,” Brown said with a smile. “I saw one guy in front of me and I had two choices — go through him or go over him. I decided to go over him.”
After Defiance (0-3, 0-1) answered with a touchdown of its own to close the gap to 7-6, Burton entered the game and announced his presence by hitting Lee Wroblewski on a 52-yard strike to give Franklin a 14-6 lead at the half.
Burton finished the game with 227 yards on 13-of-23 passing with two touchdowns and an interception in just over two quarters of play. Franklin coach Mike Leonard did not elaborate on why his quarterback was benched, but said that it was something that needed to be done.
“We’ve got to hold each other accountable. If I let the little things start slipping away from responsibility and accountability, then things will unravel in any organization,” Leonard said. “It was just a little eye-opener for him.”
Leading by just eight at the half, the Grizzlies blew the game open in the third quarter. Brown scored on a 1-yard run, Tanner Wroblewski caught a 6-yard pass from Burton and Jacob Earl scored on a 2-yard run as Franklin built a 35-6 lead after three quarters.
Tahjon McKinney-Cole hauled in a 91-yard pass from Smith with just under four minutes to play to cap the scoring for the Grizzlies.
Franklin amassed 569 yards in total offense, including 200 on the ground and 369 through the air. Defiance, meanwhile, was held to 383 total yards.
“We knew we wanted to speed it up and run the ball better,” Leonard said. “Our goal was to get at least 125 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, and I think we did that.”