But as it turned out, I had too many conflicts this season to coordinate trips on the right weekends to hit that goal. I did make a return trip to Franklin College in September, and I have a return trip to Wabash scheduled for next month. So I was very much looking forward to my one-and-only first-time campus visit last weekend, which was to Taylor University in Upland, Ind., about 20 miles north of Muncie. As best as I can tell, making it to Taylor put me close to the halfway point of my quest, or "project," to photograph action -- and the campus -- at each of the state's small schools that field football teams. Still on my list to visit are Rose-Hulman, St. Francis, Manchester, Earlham, Trine, UIndy and Anderson.
Taylor was playing only its third home game of the season and began the day with a 3-4 record (1-2 in the Mid-States Football Association). The Trojans were coming off a league win over Concordia, but were up against the defending NAIA champion Saint Xavier of Chicago. The Cougars were the No. 1-ranked NAIA team for several weeks this season until a loss to St. Francis (Ind.). They entered the game ranked sixth; Marian University of Indianapolis is No. 1.
Taylor surprised a lot of people on Saturday, and certainly the Cougars were among those early on. After the Cougars scored first on a touchdown pass from Jimmy Coy to Chase Catton, the Trojans scored the next three touchdowns -- squeezing in a successful, surprise onside kick in between -- and led 21-7. Saint Xavier fought back and tied it at 21-21, but Taylor kicked a field goal near the end of the half, and led at the midway point 24-21. Unfortunately, that was the high point for the Trojans.
Saint Xavier owned the second half, scoring five consecutive TDs before a fourth-quarter Taylor touchdown ended the day's scoring in the Cougars' 55-31 victory. Coy ended up passing for 414 yards and a school record-tying seven touchdowns, three of them to Catton; junior running back Nick Pesek's 182 yards rushing boosted his career total to 1,979 and established him as the school's new all-time leading rusher. The rusher you see in the photo leading off this post is not Pesek; it's sophomore Joshua Hunter. Taylor quarterback Nick Freeman was almost as prolific as Coy in the air -- he passed for 347 yards and all four of the Trojans' TDs.
Today's post reflects some of game shots; to view a full gallery of images from this game, visit my site at SmugMug. Tomorrow or Sunday, I'll present some of my campus shots, which have become part of the Indiana small-college campus tour project.
A side note to those of you who remember my "experiment" on my return to Franklin College in September, where most of the time I shot the Grizzlies' football game against Earlham using a relatively slow shutter speed to try to get some interesting pan action shots. I wasn't too happy with most of the results. So I returned to 1/500 and 1/640 shutters (with variable ISOs of 100, 200 and 400, depending on the lighting on a day when sunshine was occasional, and prolonged cloudiness was more prevalent) at Taylor, using my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS equipped with a 1.4 extender, and felt much better about the body of work.
Above: Saint Xavier scored on the first possession of the game with this 3-yard pass from Jimmy Coy to Chase Catton. I had a bit of a rush as this pass came toward me. I'm grateful Catton had sure hands and snagged it; if the ball had somehow slipped through his hands, it would have zipped closely to the right of me.
Taylor defensive lineman Cody Schwerin sacked Coy on this first-quarter play.
Above: Trojans' tight end Jake Foster heads to the ground after this tackle following an 11-yard reception.
Darvon Blackmon (above) nears the end zone to score Taylor's second touchdown on a 50-yard pass reception. The score capped a drive that began when Taylor recovered an onside kickoff following its first TD. Below, teammate Taylor Johnson joins Blackmon for a jump bump to celebrate the score.
Jared Perkins (above) hauls in a pass from Nick Freeman and would trot into the end zone to score on a play that covered 29 yards and increased Taylor's lead to 21-7 in the first quarter. Below, Freeman (left) joins Perkins for a celebratory jump bump.
Nick Pesek (32) is tackled at the end of a short run by Taylor's Caleb Hemmick. Pesek would set a career yardage rushing mark for Saint Xavier, but one moment he'd like to forget is this fumble near the goal line (below) when Taylor defensive lineman Cody Schwerin jarred it free from Pesek's hands. The ball would bounce around and land in the end zone, where the Trojans' Adam Sauder would recover it for a touchback.
Above: Taylor tried to pad its lead in the second quarter with this field goal, but it was ruled no good. The Trojans would succeed on another field goal, of 18 yards, before the half, giving them a 24-21 lead.
Above: Nick DeBenedetti's score on this 24-yard pass from Coy enabled the Cougars to even the score at 21-21 in the second quarter.
Above: This hit by Saint Xavier's Blake Wheeler on Nick Freeman would draw a penalty flag and help keep Taylor's final first-half drive alive, leading to the lead-grabbing field goal by Alec Eickert.
The photo above and the next five below are from the same sequence of an odd play in the second half. Pressured by the Saint Xavier rush, Freeman (above) hurried a pass that was heading over the head of intended receiver Robbie Robbins (11). Robbins jumped to try and knock the ball down (photo No. 2), presumably so he'd have a chance to catch the deflection. But as seen in photo No. 3, the ball drifted away from him and to his right ... and toward offensive lineman Steven Medlock (67), who by now had turned his head around to investigate. Seeing the ball drift his way, Medlock snagged it (Nos. 3 and 4) then was tackled immediately (No. 5). The reception, most likely the only one Medlock will ever have in his college career, netted 3 yards for the Trojans.
Chase Catton (above) had already scored his second TD pass of the day to begin Saint Xavier's thundering third-quarter rally and came close to getting his third on this play. But the officials correctly ruled that Catton had made contact with the ground before turning around to reach the ball into the end zone as you see here. The Cougars' momentum was delayed only temporarily; on the very next play, Wes Gastel (below) ran it in for the score.
Above: Catton (just out of the frame on the right) did get his third TD score of the day on this pass thrown by Coy with 54 seconds left to play in the third quarter. With the extra point kick, Saint Xaiver's lead improved to 34-24.
Above: Saint Xavier's Nick DeBenedetti scored his second TD of the day on this 27-yard reception of a Jimmy Coy pass in the fourth quarter, increasing the Cougars' lead to 48-24. DeBenedetti reached the end zone before either of two Taylor defenders could get close enough to stop the score.
Above: After DeBenedetti's score and another TD on a 60-yard pass from Coy to Gastel not long afterward, a number of birds started to fly over the stadium. Several metaphors came to mind, but I tried to focus on ascertaining what species these were, to no avail.
Above and next two below: Taylor's fortunes in the second half were epitomized by this play, a quick side pass by Freeman to Jake Fidler (4), but Fidler couldn't reel it in, and it fell harmless to the ground.