The Wittenberg Tigers have taken a slight lead over Wabash, their biggest North Coast Athletic Conference football rival, in the series history since 2000.
That’s significant because six years ago Wabash had won eight of the last 12 games. Momentum switched in 2013 when Wittenberg won 35-17 in Springfield, and Wittenberg has won four of the last five.
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The Tigers lead the series 10-9 since 2000 or 12-9 if you count the games in 1964 and 1965. Wittenberg has won or shared 10 NCAC championships since Wabash entered the league in 2000. Wabash has won seven titles in that span.
All that will mean little at 1 p.m. Saturday when the series resumes at Edwards-Maurer Field. Nine of the last 19 games have been decided by seven points or fewer. The eighth-ranked Tigers (7-0, 6-0) can take another step toward a third straight league title by handing Wabash (6-1, 5-1) its second loss. Wittenberg seeks its first three-game winning streak against Wabash in NCAC play.
“When these two teams get together, it’s cliche but you can throw the records out,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “They had lost a game when we played them last year, and we were very fortunate to get out of Crawfordsville with a win. We were behind late. These two teams have gotten together before when one had dropped one earlier. Most of the time, they turn into classics. I don’t expect this one to be any different. They’re a very good football team.”
Wittenberg beat Wabash 21-14 last season. Jake Kennedy, who became the first Wittenberg quarterback to start in two straight victories against the Little Giants, threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Bailey with 6:54 to play in the fourth quarter after Wabash had taken a 14-13 lead on a 3-yard run by Ike James with 4:18 left in the third quarter. Wittenberg’s defense held Wabash to 24 yards on its last two drives.
The previous year in Springfield, Wittenberg rallied from a 14-0 deficit and outscored Wabash 10-0 in the second half to win 24-14 and pinned Wabash inside the 10 at the start of six second-half drives.
» SERIES HISTORY: Best and worst of Witt vs. Wabash
This Wabash team lost 34-10 at Denison on Oct. 6 and trailed 34-0 until scoring 10 points in the final 2:09. As often is the case, Wabash has the best running game in the conference, averaging 250.9 yards per game. Jason Avant averages 104.7 yards per game.
“That’s been their M.O. for I don’t know how many years now,” Fincham said. “They show up with offensive linemen that just blot out the sun. They’re just so stinking big. They just start wading into you. It’s an enormous challenge on your front seven just to withstand the pounding you take. They just seem to keep moving forward and get into these third-and-short situations. It makes it rough on you. At the same time, their receivers are big kids. They take shots at posts, and obviously they’re going to run comebacks and things like that. You just have to keep cramming more and more guys into the box to try to slow down the run game.”