The challenge was cut and dry. Run the ball against a defense that no one had been to gain yards against the first three weeks of the season.
The Quincy University offensive line liked that challenge.
"We come out with the mentality we have to get those hard yards every single time," junior left tackle Justin Rosendahl said. "It doesn't matter what's called. It doesn't matter what they line up in. We have to trust ourselves that we can do those things and get those hard yards."
For the first time this season, Davenport gave up some of those gritty, grinding yards that keep drives alive.
The Hawks nearly doubled the number of rushing yards Davenport had allowed, churning out 119 yards on 32 carries to average 3.2 yards per carry in a 26-10 loss to the Panthers on Saturday at QU Stadium. Davenport was the No. 1-ranked rushing defense in NCAA Division II coming into the game, having allowed just 62 yards in its first three games. Opponents were averaging just .7 yards per carry against the Panthers' quick, athletic front seven.
Freshman quarterback Tionne Harris was at the heart of the attack, using the read-option efficiently as he rushed for 111 yards on 18 carries and had the Hawks' lone touchdown on a 6-yard carry. However, junior tailback Chris Brinson, who was coming off back-to-back 100-yard efforts, was limited to 9 yards on 9 carries and never seemed to get comfortable coming out of the backfield.
Despite being able to run the ball better than anyone else Davenport had faced, the Hawks still made enough mistakes offensively to keep them from threatening the lead in the fourth quarter. The Hawks had three turnovers and only 75 yards passing. Harris was sacked twice.
"We just have to be more consistent," QU coach Gary Bass said. "Offensively, when you're this young and you're making mistakes, it's difficult to be successful."
Sutton makes presence felt
One of the biggest offseason objectives for the QU coaching staff was to upgrade the play at defensive end. So the Hawks signed two junior college transfers, and steadily James Perryman and Kris Sutton have become playmakers. Saturday, Sutton showed his array of talents.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder had eight tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack as he consistently made himself a presence in the backfield.
"We were just flying all around," Sutton said. "We had a lot of fun and a lot of energy. It's probably the most fun we've had getting after it in any game I believe. We can be a lot better, and we have a lot of room to improve. I'm looking forward to see what we do next as a defense."
No play sums up Sutton's ability better than a third quarter stop of Davenport running back Seth Acda. On second and 8, Acda took the handoff going right and tried to run away from Sutton. QU linebacker Clayton Cole came up from his outside linebacker spot to meet Acda and Sutton chased him down from behind, and they combined to drag him down for a 3-yard loss.
The Hawks had 10 tackles for loss and three sacks.
"We made a lot of good strides," Sutton said. "We always felt we could play good. We feel like we have a good supporting cast for each other. It's never individually. It's a team for us. We're brothers out there."
Special teams have impact
The Hawks did their best to take advantage of some big plays on special teams. And there was one kick QU would happily like to retry.
Quincy blocked a field goal on Davenport's opening possession of the game as senior linebacker Cody Leonard slipped through the line and knocked down a 29-yard field goal attempt by the Panthers' Chris Ahmed. Davenport had driven 64 yards on 14 plays and chewed up more than six minutes on the opening drive, only to have the QU defense and special teams deny it points.
"We got tough when we needed to," Leonard said.
And when the Hawks needed points, the special teams delivered. Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Hawks left-footed sophomore kicker Michael Klotz drove a 43-yard field goal through the uprights for his second made field goal of the season. It was the longest field goal of his career.
Two possessions later, Klotz had the chance to make it a 7-6 game, but his 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked. That missed opportunity kept the Hawks from tying the game after scoring early in the third quarter and Davenport pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Around the GLVC
Truman State picked up its first victory of the season, going on the road to beat Valparaiso 34-20. The Bulldogs scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to beat an FCS school for the third time in program history and the first time since 2002. Bulldogs quarterback Jaden Barr rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown and threw for 122 yards and a touchdown. Hannibal product Mitch Nichols hauled in Barr's touchdown pass, scoring on a 75-yard pass play. ... Lincoln held Southwest Baptist to 43 yards rushing in a 28-13 victory in the GLVC opener for both schools. Meanwhile, Indianapolis opened defense of its league title with a 41-14 victory over William Jewell. The Greyhounds sacked Cardinals quarterback Will Schneider 12 times. ... Missouri S&T finished off its non-conference slate with a 16-7 victory at Tuskegee as Roderick Chapman had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Miners also blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt.