Wittenberg’s Joe Fincham after big win: ‘The guys stuck together’

Kennedy’s TD pass to Bailey big play in win at Wabash


Highlights

Wittenberg is 8-0 with home games remaining against Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster.

Coach Joe Fincham had a typical Sunday planned for the Wittenberg Tigers: weightlifting, film sessions, meetings, etc. It’s the same routine every week.

There was nothing typical about Saturday for Fincham and the Tigers, however — other than the fact that they won.

No. 13 Wittenberg beat Wabash 21-14 to improve to 8-0 and maintain its grip on first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference at 7-0. Two home games remain against Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster.

This was Wittenberg’s 10th game in Crawfordsville, Ind., since 2000. They beat the Little Giants on the road for the fourth time. In none of the previous victories (2000, 2009 and 2013) had they trailed in the fourth quarter.

“You go on the road and play in a tough environment,” said Fincham, who will seek his 200th career victory on Saturday against Ohio Wesleyan at Edwards-Maurer Field. “I can’t say enough about the toughness and composure of our team. In all big games, there are swings back and forth in momentum, whether they are self inflicted or just produced by the other team. We were able to fight through some bad things. We had some poor field position. We gave up a fake punt that really changed the complexion of the game. Our kickoff return team hurt us on a couple of different occasions. We had a couple bad turnovers, too. The guys stuck together. I don’t think they ever wavered in their belief.”

RELATED: Top plays and stats from Wittenberg’s eighth win

Wabash took a 14-13 lead on a 3-yard run by Ike James with 4:18 to play in the third quarter. Wittenberg punted on its next two drives.

With 10:22 left in the fourth quarter, Wittenberg started a drive on its own 26-yard line. DeShawn Sarley started the possession with two runs for 16 yards. Jake Kennedy then threw a 17-yard pass to Jeff Tiffner to move the ball across midfield.

On 3rd-and-7 from the Wabash 38, Tiffner caught a 14-yard pass. On the next play, Kennedy found Bryce Bailey in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion pass to Tiffner gave Wittenberg a 21-14 lead at the 6:54 mark.

Bailey’s touchdown was his third of the season. He leads the team with 29 catches while also handling punting duties. He ranks second in the North Coast Athletic Conference with 38.8 yards per punt.

“We had a lot of questions going into the season,” Fincham said. “You lose three all-conference offensive linemen. We had some questions in our secondary. But I’m not so sure the biggest question was, ‘Who was going to replace (punter) Will Gingery?’ Bryce Bailey has really come through for us.”

RELATED: A look back at a great rivalry

Kennedy’s 20th touchdown of the season allowed him to improve to 2-0 as a starter against Wabash. No Wittenberg quarterback can claim that mark since the Little Giants joined the league in 2000.

“Jake is real competitive,” Fincham said. “I think that he typically plays his best in the biggest games. He gets a little wild at times, but that’s his personality as a player. He provides a lot of leadership. I think our team believes in Jake. He’s proven himself to be a pretty good player in those moments.”

Wittenberg’s defense did its part as well. James, who averages a NCAC-best 134 yards per game, gained 41 yards on 21 carries. Isaac Avant, who ranks eighth in the league with 64.1 yards per game, had 29 yards on 11 carries.

“Those are clearly — and there is no close second — the best two backs we’ve seen all year,” Fincham said. “And with the sheer size of that offensive line and playing in that environment, I can’t say enough about front four guys and our safeties, too. It was a team effort to be able to shut that thing down. Our front guys got after the quarterback, and we tackled well pretty much the whole ballgame.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Ohio State notes: Haskins continues showcase accuracy
Ohio State notes: Haskins continues showcase accuracy

J.T. Barrett broke almost all the school passing records the last four seasons, not to mention a bunch of Big Ten marks. The way he’s playing in his first season as a starter, Dwayne Haskins won’t stick around the college game long enough to challenge any career marks. Haskins continued to compile stats worthy of the Heisman Trophy in his...
HS Roundup 9/22: Packnett paces Dunbar football in win over Woodward

Greg Packnett passed for 145 yards and three touchdowns in helping spur Dunbar football to a 22-20 win versus Woodward at Welcome Stadium on Saturday night. Packnett connected with James Murray and Bryce Smith on TD passes in the first half and hit Jaquan Lusbourgh with the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter. Aaron Richardson tacked on the...
HS Scores 9/22: Carroll finishes strong in Midwest Catholic race

Football Saturday’s Results Dunbar 22, Woodward 20 Landmark Christian 34, Middletown Christian 13 Friday’s Results Allen East 50, Delphos Jefferson 6 Alter 45, Fenwick 20 Anderson 47, Withrow 12 Badin 42, Roger Bacon 35, OT Bellbrook 21, Franklin 17 Bellefontaine 14, Ben Logan 6 Brookville 42, Carlisle 2 Butler 13, Xenia 7, OT Celina 42...
5 things to know about Ohio State’s blowout of Tulane
5 things to know about Ohio State’s blowout of Tulane

Ohio State rolled Tulane 49-6 on Saturday to end a rocky couple of months for the program.  So maybe it was only natural the state’s official rock song would be what brought Urban Meyer back to normal coaching the fourth-ranked Buckeyes.  “Between the third and fourth quarter, hearing the band play, ‘Hang on Sloopy.&rsquo...
Wayne grad Smith debuts for Buckeyes against Tulane
Wayne grad Smith debuts for Buckeyes against Tulane

The latest Wayne High School graduate to play for the Ohio State Buckeyes took the field for the first time Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Freshman wide receiver L’Christian “Blue” Smith made his college debut late in the fourth quarter of a 49-6 victory against Tulane. He did not catch a pass in his first game. Smith can play in...
More Stories