In the final minutes, with Wittenberg clinging to the lead, wide receiver Garth Gilbert tried to get the offense going one more time.
“The defense has been carrying us all day,” the Tecumseh graduate said. “We have one job to do.”
An offense that seemed unstoppable in the first two games of the season didn’t do its job well in the second half at Case Western Reserve on Saturday, gaining 47 yards and two first downs. But when it needed one first down to make Case’s comeback all the more difficult, Wittenberg got it on a 9-yard run by quarterback Reed Florence in the final two minutes.
That helped seal the 14-10 victory and a 4-0 start to the season. It was an ugly enough victory that both coaches could be heard screaming at their teams on the field after the game — but it is a win.
Despite the weak offensive performance, after the game the Tigers hoisted the Bill Edwards Trophy, named after the Wittenberg coaching legend who got his start at Case. Wittenberg has possessed the trophy since 1999, the last time the teams played.
“Games like this, when you play like we did in the second half, you’re almost embarrassed to walk across the field to shake hands with the other coach,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “They pushed us around. I don’t know how many third-and-shorts we had and couldn’t convert a single one of them in the second half.
“The only thing they did to screw it up was they missed a field goal and had a couple of late turnovers. Without the two turnovers they had in our game today and the turnovers they had in the last couple of ballgames, they’re a 5-0 football team. We didn’t have any business winning this game.”
The Tigers scored all their points in the first half. Florence scored on a 6-yard run on their second drive.
Then on Wittenberg’s final possession of the first half, it went 74 yards in seven plays. The two-minute drill took just over a minute, and Florence threw a 16-yard touchdown pass over the middle to a wide-open Brendon Cunningham.
Florence threw for 181 yards, but only 14 in the second half. He completed 15-of-25 passes, while the running game sputtered.
“We practice (the two-minute drill) every Wednesday and Thursday,” Florence said. “(Fincham) lets me call my own plays. I showed early in camp I could, and he’s trusted me ever since.”
The defense, while far from dominant, got the job done in the second half with a fourth-down stop with 10 minutes left, an interception by Jamaal Everett and a fumble recovery by Evan Killilea. Spencer Leno led the unit with 17 tackles.
“I give the defense credit for hanging in there and continuing to play,” Fincham said, “because they just shoved us up and down the field.”
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