The College of Wooster's football team played catch-up for most of the first half, until a fumble forced by Wooster's defense with under two minutes remaining moved the Fighting Scots into the driver's seat as the Black and Gold ran away with an eventual 49-35 win over Allegheny College on Saturday evening at Meadville, Pa. in the teams' North Coast Athletic Conference opener.
Wooster (2-0, 1-0 NCAC) trailed Allegheny (1-1, 0-1 NCAC) by a touchdown at three different junctures in the first half, and had just rallied to knot the score at 21 when first-year Beau Greenwood pried the ball loose from Jake Wilson, setting the Scots up at the Gators' 40-yard line. Then, senior quarterback Gary Muntean connected with sophomore Nick Strausbaugh on a 37-yard strike to move the Scots up to the Gators' 3-yard stripe. Two plays later, Muntean capped the short-field possession with a 2-yard dart into the end zone to make it 28-21 with :58 left in the second quarter.
Just before the game-changing fumble, a 67-yard Muntean-to-Strausbaugh strike had Wooster's offense primed at Allegheny's 6-yard line, and that drive was capped with a 3-yard Muntean scamper for a touchdown to tie the game at 21 with 2:02 left before the half.
In the second half, it was Allegheny's turn to play catch-up and the Gators opened the third quarter with a 2-yard Logan Lee-to-Wilson touchdown that made it 28 all.
Wooster answered right back with a 10-yard touchdown rush by junior Antonio Bailey capping a 7-play, 65-yard drive that made it 35-28 with 7:36 to go in the third quarter. Wooster clicked on all cylinders from there - and was aided by a high snap on an Allegheny fourth-down play along the way - as the Scots scored 21 unanswered points, and went up 49-28 on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Muntean to a wide-open Strausbaugh with just over 14 minutes to go.
First-year Cam Pollard turned in a noteworthy 36-yard punt return just before Wooster went up by 21, and the Gators helped the Scots' cause with a 15-yard illegal block penalty that was tacked on to the end of the return to position the Black and Gold at Allegheny's 21-yard line.
Muntean, who accounted for 461 yards of total offense in last year's meeting between the two teams, was nearly there again with 391 on the night, including 364 through the air. The senior signal-caller had a hand in six of Wooster's seven touchdowns, including four passing ones, giving him three games with at least four passing touchdowns. Muntean's first two touchdowns came via a 39-yard connection to sophomore Jacob Lewis that made it 7-7 midway through the first quarter, and the second was an 11-yard find to Strausbaugh that tied the contest at 14 with 8:38 to go before the half.
Of note, Muntean surpassed Wooster alumnus Austin Holter for third on the College's all-time passing list, and the senior is currently at 5,765 career yards through the air.
Speaking of Strausbaugh, the sophomore sensation turned four receptions into 136 yards with the pair of scores, while Lewis finished 10 yards shy of the century mark on his four catches.
Defensively, freshman Danté Fair continued his impressive start to his career with a team-high eight tackles and a pass break-up, while sophomores Robert Alvarez and Christian Santos and junior Marcus Bowers each finished with seven tackles.
Allegheny's Lee finished the night 17-for-25 for 277 yards and four touchdowns, and was a perfect 8-for-8 in the first half, thanks in large part to Alex Victor who had five receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder on the Gators' first play from scrimmage.
Freddy Ruiz led the way defensively with a game-high 11 tackles.
Notable, Wooster is off to its first 2-0 start since the 2008 season.
Next, Wooster hosts Ohio Wesleyan University (0-1, 0-0 NCAC) at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 as part of the College's Black & Gold Weekend.