Wittenberg refocuses after 32-point loss at Wabash

Tigers playing Ohio Wesleyan, which ended a 13-game losing streak in the series last season, on the road Saturday

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Back-to-back losses to DePauw and Wabash killed Wittenberg’s North Coast Athletic Conference championship hopes. Coach Jim Collins now will seek to motivate his team in other ways, starting with a 4 p.m. game Saturday against Ohio Wesleyan in Delaware.

“We’ve still got a lot to play for,” Collins said Thursday. “It’s obviously a big rivalry game. They beat us last year. That’s been on our minds all year. And we’re Wittenberg, so every single week, you’re playing to win. We didn’t have the type of performance last week that we were expecting to have, and that’s been on our minds all week. Believe me when I say our guys want to get back on that field really bad and and show everybody what type of team we can be.”

Wittenberg lost 52-20 to Wabash in Crawfordsville, Ind. It was the most lopsided game in the Wittenberg-Wabash series since Wabash joined the NCAC in 2000.

“We got off to a slow start,” Collins said, “and they jumped us. We didn’t have the response we needed to have, and there’s no excuse. You’ve got to respond as an athlete as a competitor, and we weren’t able to do that. That was disappointing for every single person that was on that trip. You’ve just got to get refocused and get onto the next one.

“That was not the way we wanted to play last week. I think our team right now is motivated by the fact that they didn’t play to their potential. As coaches, we understand that we’ve got to do a great job every single day, and this is another opportunity for us to play a football game. The great thing about last week is that it wasn’t the last week of the season.”

With two games remaining, Wittenberg (5-3, 4-2) shares third place with Denison (5-3, 4-2) and Ohio Wesleyan (5-3, 4-2).

DePauw (9-0, 7-0) clinched a share of the NCAC championship with a 58-7 victory against Kenyon last week. Wabash (6-2, 5-1) could earn the NCAC playoff bid by beating Hiram and DePauw in its final two games.

Wittenberg lost 14-7 at home to Ohio Wesleyan last season. The Battling Bishops ended a 13-game losing streak in the series and won in Springfield for the first time since 1990.

This season, like Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan lost back-to-back games to DePauw, 27-7, and Wabash, 31-13. It has since won three straight games against Kenyon, Hiram and Oberlin.

“They’re really strong on the defensive side of the ball,” Collins said. “They’ve got good players. They run to the football. They’re physical. They play a lot of man coverage, and they’re aggressive. We’ve got to get first downs and control the football and not turn it over and score points. At the same time, defensively, we’ve given up some big plays, and we’ve got to do a better job of preventing big plays. That’s been a focus.”

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