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Big-play ability a big strength for Wittenberg

For years and years, Wittenberg coaches have posted sheets of poster board outside the locker room. Every player sees them just before turning in their dirty practice clothes or uniforms.

They see charts with all the offensive, defensive, special teams and team goals. There are dozens of specific goals: zero turnovers and 60 percent pass completion percentage, for instance, on offense, or on defense, a third-quarter shutout, no touchdowns after a sudden change and eight negative-yardage plays.

The first goal on every poster board is: Win. That’s something the 18th-ranked Tigers (4-1, 4-0 North Coast Athletic Conference have done in each of the last four weeks as they prepare to host Wooster at 6 p.m. today.

If the Tigers haven’t been winning pretty, they have shown moments of beauty. For example, after Denison tied the score at 17 with just over a minute left in the first half Saturday, Wittenberg needed just three plays and 27 seconds to regain the lead.

Reed Florence completed passes to Zac Wilson for 28 and 22 yards and then found Brendon Cunningham for a 13-yard touchdown strike. Wittenberg never trailed again in a 38-20 victory.

Wittenberg has big-play capability. That can make up for many shortcomings. Florence averages 10.2 yards per pass attempt, which leads the NCAC by more than two yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.

“It’s nice we have the ability to do those things,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “Once you rely on big plays to bail you out, you’ve got a big problem. (Big plays) show what you’re capable of doing. We haven’t played with consistency, and it’s been frustrating. Coaches are frustrated. I think our players are frustrated. The only way we’re going to get rid of it is to go out and continue to work hard and play with more focus.”

Wittenberg is 21-3 against Wooster (3-2, 3-1) in NCAC play, and the Scots have lost 17 straight games in a Springfield. Their last win on the road against the Tigers was in 1949.

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