A big play from the Big Red in the fourth quarter likely spoiled the Wittenberg University football team’s chances for a fourth straight North Coast Athletic Conference championship.
Denison University’s Peyton Vining caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Drew Deskins early in the fourth quarter and the Big Red beat Wittenberg 24-14 in an NCAC game on Saturday afternoon at soggy Edwards-Maurer Field.
Wittenberg lost its second straight game and fell to 4-3 and 4-2 in the North Coast Athletic Conference. The Tigers have won or shared the NCAC title three years in a row.
“I thought our guys played hard,” said Tigers coach Joe Fincham. “We certainly had some things go against us, but you’ve got to credit the Denison team. They played really well. The back’s a big kid who ran downhill on us. We just didn’t make enough plays.”
Denison’s Alex Minton rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries for the Big Red, who improved to 6-1 and 5-1 in the NCAC. They’re currently tied atop the league standings with Ohio Wesleyan (6-1, 5-1) and Wabash (5-2, 5-1). Wittenberg fell into a tie for fourth place with DePauw (4-3, 4-2).
Tigers quarterback Bobby Froehlich went 24-for-36 for 252 yards and a touchdown and two interceptions. Sam Kayser caught a game-high 10 passes for 139 yards and a score and Jaheem Washington ran 16 times for 80 yards and a touchdown.
After Vining’s big play, Wittenberg faced a fourth-and-4 from its own 35-yard line with about three minutes remaining, but Froehlich’s pass to Thaddeus Snodgrass fell incomplete.
“The clock’s running at the point,” Fincham said. “We had no other choice but to go for it. That’s just how it worked out.”
The Big Red drove the ball to Wittenberg’s 2 and Denison Pat Kramer kicked a 26-yard field goal to seal the victory for the Big Red.
Wittenberg capitalized on a Denison turnover on its first possession to take an early lead. Big Red quarterback Drew Dawkins fumbled after being hit by Wittenberg’s Trevor Good and teammate Logan Jewsikow recovered the ball on the Denison 38-yard line.
Five plays later, Froehlich found Kayser, who weaved through several Big Red defenders for a 27-yard TD to give Wittenberg a 7-0 lead.
“I thought Sammy Kayser played a great football game,” Fincham said. “He’s proven that he’s really been our playmaker for most of the season. We get the ball in his hands and he can go.”
The Big Red responded on its next possession, driving 44 yards in nine plays that resulted in a 21-yard field goal by Pat Kramer.
After a three-and-out by the Tigers, the Big Red scored on a two-yard run by Minton to take a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
The Tigers threatened twice in the second quarter, but both drives ended in interceptions.
On its first possession of the second half, Wittenberg began to establish its run game. The Tigers drove 75 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 19-yard run by Washington.
The Big Red drove the ball into Wittenberg territory on its next possession, but settled for a 27-yard field goal by Kramer to pull within one point at 14-13.
The Tigers responded with a 51-yard pass from Froehlich to Kayser to give Wittenberg the ball on Denison’s 21-yard line. Another big catch by Kayser gave Wittenberg first-and-goal on the seven-yard line, but the play was called back for holding. The drive stalled on third down and Nick Bowman’s 36-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
Two plays later, Dawkins hit Vining across the middle and he ran it 81 yards to the house to give Denison a 19-14 lead. Dawkins threw a quick pass to Dallas Griffiths on the two-point conversion play to give the Big Red the lead for good.
This weekend, Wittenberg unveiled its new $50 million dollar facility ‘The Steemer,’ a 135,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility that includes an artificial turf field, six lane indoor track and state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center.
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