Wittenberg plays Oberlin as it seeks 4-0 start in NCAC

Tigers have won 23 straight games in the series

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

The biggest tests for the Wittenberg Tigers loom later this month: a home game against DePauw on Oct. 21 followed by a road game at Wabash a week later.

DePauw (6-0, 4-0) leads the North Coast Athletic Conference by a half game over Wabash and Wittenberg (both 4-1, 3-0). One of those teams will win the championship. The other six teams already have at least two losses.

Wittenberg first plays Oberlin (1-4, 0-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex in Oberlin. Coach Jim Collins doesn’t worry about his team looking ahead on the schedule.

“I think we’re mature enough to know how to handle it,” Collins said. “At the same time, you’ve got to practice at a high level and you’ve got to play at a high level when you show up on Saturday, so we’ve got to execute. There’s no question all the guys will be excited about the opportunity to play because you don’t get enough of these games. If you’re a college football player at the Division III level, you’re only guaranteed 10 games.”

Wittenberg beat Oberlin 62-7 last season and has won 23 straight games in the series.

Oberlin played three of the top teams in the NCAC — Denison, Wabash and DePauw — in its first three league games and lost by a combined total of 195-13. Oberlin has lost 13 NCAC games in a row since a 31-28 victory against Hiram in 2021 and has not defeated any current NCAC team, other than Hiram and Kenyon, since 2015.

Oberlin will still present some challenges for Wittenberg.

“Oberlin has got some things that they do that are different, schematically,” Collins said. “Offensively, they take really wide splits. They’ve gone for it a lot on fourth down. They’ve kicked a lot of onside kicks. They’re playing the game different than the five teams we played so far and try to use that as an advantage. That’s something different you’ve got to prepare for. Obviously, it still comes back to you’ve got to do a great job of blocking, tackling and protecting the football.

“We expect a little bit of rain this weekend, potentially, so that’s another factor that could come into play. The last couple of days we’ve been practicing with wet balls just to get used to handling a wet football.”

Wittenberg beat Hiram 21-7 last week at Edwards-Maurer Field. It was the closest game of the season for Hiram (0-6, 0-4), which lost 49-0 to DePauw earlier in the season.

“We had some opportunities to score,” Collins said. “We had the ball in the red zone two other times and came away with nothing. Each team had nine possessions. Most games you have 12 or 13. Both teams used a lot of clock. At the end of the day, what you’re looking for is, ‘How do you respond under under adversity and in pressure situations when you’re in a game where not everything’s going your way?’ And our guys responded. That was a good thing. We made the plays we had to make to win the game. You move on and you learn from it.”

Wittenberg rushed for a season-high 272 yards while passing for a season-low 105 yards.

“Hiram did a really good job and he just sat back in coverage and made it hard to throw the ball down the field,” Collins said. “When that’s the case, you’ve got to rely on your run game, so I thought our guys did a great job of running hard and breaking tackles.”

About the Author