In last week's victory over Alderson Broaddus, Quincy University running back Chris Harris set the tone for a 50-point showing with a burst of speed.
Saturday, in a game that turned into a slobberknocker, Harris gave the Hawks an edge with brute force.
The senior tailback powered his way to 107 yards on 25 carries as the Hawks were able to grind out a 7-3 victory over Lincoln in the Great Lakes Valley Conference opener at QU Stadium.
Harris didn't have a run longer than 13 yards, but he had some crucial carries late in the game that helped the Hawks survive.
After Lincoln punted the ball with 4:13 remaining in regulation, giving Quincy possession at its own 30-yard line. Harris picked up 5 and 9 yards on the first two carries, getting a first down that allowed the Hawks to milk the clock. Quincy ran just five plays and gained 23 yards on the drive -- all were Harris runs -- but it took 3:15 off the clock and gave the ball back to Lincoln with just 58 seconds remaining.
"Chris ran with a purpose," QU interim head coach Gary Bass said. "This turned into a good old-fashioned 12-round title fight."
Harris' effort led to the 10th 100-yard game of his career and third against Lincoln. In 2014, Harris ran 30 times for 100 yards and one touchdown in a 42-13 loss to the Blue Tigers. In 2015, he had 22 carries for 258 yards and one touchdown in a 42-37 victory.
Carlton sees starts streak snapped
Jared Carlton, the senior left guard and one of four team captains, saw a streak of 20 consecutive starts snapped when he missed Saturday's game because of a sprained right ankle suffered against Alderson Broaddus.
"We have a next-man-up mentality," Bass said.
So sophomore Austin Reiter got the start in Carlton's place. The offensive line was able to help QU rush for 134 yards, but did allow two sacks after not allowing one against Alderson Broaddus. Part of the reason for the sacks was the solid coverage Lincoln had on QU's wide receivers.
"It's hard for an offensive line, which did so great all day, to block for five or six seconds," QU wide receiver Kody Wood said. "There were times we ran a play to a coverage where they could make a play on it, and that made it tough for Rund to find someone open."
Red zone issues
In the Week 1 loss at Midwestern State, the QU offense failed to score on three trips inside the red zone.
Saturday, the Hawks failed to reach the red zone.
Quincy managed just 189 yards of total offense and eight first downs. The Hawks' lone touchdown was a 48-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Andrew Rund to senior wide receiver Kody Wood one play after linebacker Clayton Cole intercepted a pass at the Lincoln 48-yard line. Quincy managed to cross midfield on only three other drives.
On possessions that started in their own territory, the Hawks never pushed deeper than the Blue Tigers' 38-yard line.
"The biggest thing that hurt us early on was we couldn't get in a rhythm because we had some dropped passes and we had a bad snap," Bass said. "Hats off to Lincoln's defense. There's a reason they came in ranked ninth in the country. But I bet when we go back and watch film, I bet some of it's going to be 50-50. Some of it's going to be because (Lincoln) did a great job. There's going to be a big part of it where there were self-inflicted wounds."
In the second half, aside from the TD pass, the Hawks managed just 44 yards, largely because of conservative play calling.
"Our defense was playing well," Bass said. "I didn't want to put them in a bad position to give up a cheap one."
Cole snares first interception
Clayton Cole has found himself in position to make big plays before. The junior linebacker has two passes broken up and two forced fumbles in his career, but Saturday night, he was responsible for the biggest tide-turning moment of the Hawks' victory.
Midway through the third quarter, Cole intercepted a pass at the Lincoln 48-yard line. On the next play, Wood caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Rund for the Hawks' only score, which energized the entire sideline.
"There's no better feeling than that right there," Cole said.
Quincy won the turnover battle 2-0 and is plus-three in takeaway-giveaway ratio. Two of the Hawks' four interceptions have been by linebackers.