Wittenberg vs. Wabash: A look back at a great NCAC rivalry

Teams meet for the 21st time in NCAC play Saturday

Wabash has DePauw. Wittenberg has Ohio Wesleyan.

Those are the rivalry games for the perennial North Coast Athletic Conference powers. Lines get added to the media guides for rivalries that go back more than 100 years in both cases.

» PHOTOS: 2018 game2016 game | 2012 game

But the Wittenberg-Wabash game takes a back seat only in the age department. The teams meet for the 21st time since 2000 at 1 p.m. Saturday in Crawfordsville, Ind. As usual, first place will be on the line.

“These are two teams that prepare for this game 12 months of the year,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said in 2017. “Everyone knows what’s at stake.”

Wittenberg (4-1, 4-0) leads Wabash (3-2, 3-1), Denison (4-1, 3-1), Ohio Wesleyan (4-1, 3-1) and DePauw (3-2, 3-1) by one game with five games to play. Wittenberg won its fourth straight game Saturday, routing Allegheny 52-14 at Edwards-Maurer Field, while Wabash suffered its first NCAC loss, 24-10 at Wooster.

The Wittenberg-Wabash series is tied 10-10 since Wabash joined the NCAC in 2000. That doesn’t count Wittenberg’s two victories over Wabash in 1964 and 1965.

Here’s a look back at the series with a list of superlatives:

Wildest finish: In 2018 in Springfield, the Tigers overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit, tying the game in the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass from wide receiver Jeff Tiffner to Kennedy. The Tigers then sent the game to overtime by scoring on the last play of regulation. Kennedy threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Liam Duncan as time expired.

In overtime, after a pass by Wabash quarterback Jake Reid on the first play of overtime gave the Little Giants a first down at the 10-yard line, Isaac Avant scored the go-ahead touchdown one play later. Then Wabash's Jake Page intercepted Wittenberg's Jake Kennedy on the second play of Wittenberg's possession, ending the game and giving the Little Giants a 28-21 victory.

Best game for an offensive coordinator: It will be hard to top Wabash's 46-43 overtime victory in 2002 in Springfield. That was Wabash's first victory in the series, and it set the tone for all the great games to follow.

Wittenberg rallied from a 43-26 deficit in the fourth quarter only to lose on a 27-yard field goal by Mark Server.

Best game for a defensive coordinator: Wittenberg beat Wabash 10-7 in 2009 in Crawfordsville. Michael Cooper's touchdown catch was Wittenberg's only score until the 31-yard field goal by Zack Harris with 1 second to play.

Strangest game: The rivalry began with a 41-10 victory by Wittenberg at Wabash in 2000. That game took six hours to play. It featured a grub infestation in Wabash's turf that delayed the game for 22 minutes. Three sections of turf had to be removed.

Then a longer lightning delay forced the teams to move to Crawfordsville High School, which had lights. Hollett Little Giant Stadium did not.

“I remember sitting around the locker room and guys laughing about the situation,” Wittenberg wide receiver Michael Aljancic said in 2008. “It was tough to get mentally prepared to play again. We were kind of ticked off about the whole situation, having to be there for 12 hours.”

Biggest catch: Bryce Bailey caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jake Kennedy with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter to lift the Tigers to a 20-14 victory at Wabash in 2017.

“It was a crucial play we needed,” Bailey said. “Jake put the ball in a perfect spot. All game they had been biting on choice routes.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Top rushing performance: Wittenberg's Tristan Murray rushed 28 times for 218 yards and three touchdowns in 2004 in a 49-35 victory in Springfield. He also caught a touchdown pass.

Top receiving performance: Wabash's Kody Lemond caught 10 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown in a 13-10 victory in Springfield in 2008.

Top quarterback performance: Wabash's Jake Knott completed 27 of 51 passes for 373 yards with three touchdown passes in Springfield in 2002.

Top defensive performance: Wabash safety Addrian Frederick picked off four passes in 2009.

Best single punt: In 2004 in Springfield, Wittenberg's Jacob Thomas booted a 73-yard punt, the second longest in school history. Wabash fumbled the punt, and Wittenberg recovered inside the 10-yard line in the final minutes.

Best punting performance: Wittenberg’s Will Gingery punted nine times in a 24-14 victory in 2016 in Springfield. He averaged 47.7 yards per punt, pinned Wabash inside the 20 six times and had a long punt of 69 yards.

Most memorable drive: Wabash secured a 27-24 victory in Springfield in 2012 with a 16-play, 48-yard drive that took the final 9 minutes, 32 seconds off the clock.

Longest winning streak: Wabash won three straight against Wittenberg starting with that regular-season victory in 2002 and also including a 25-14 playoff victory that season and a 41-14 victory in 2003.

Worst stat: Wittenberg committed eight turnovers (five fumbles and three interceptions) in a 2003 playoff loss at Wabash.

Best quote: Wittenberg beat Wabash 19-17 in Springfield in 2006. Wabash'sChad Finley missed a 28-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining.

Wittenberg fullback Andy Vanover said, "I was watching, barely. I was waiting for a gust of wind or a bad snap. Thank God he missed it. I'm drained. I'm done. … Until next week."

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