WOOSTER, Ohio – The College of Wooster carried a 28-27 lead into the fourth quarter, and sophomore Christian Santos' interception gave the Fighting Scots the ball back with 2:23 remaining trailing by five, but Wooster's final drive never materialized as 25th-ranked Wabash College held on for a 33-28 win in a thrilling North Coast Athletic Conference contest on Saturday afternoon at John P. Papp Stadium.
Wooster's (3-2, 2-2 NCAC) senior Gary Muntean set the tone right away by sending Wabash's (4-0, 3-0 NCAC) defense scrambling after sophomore Nick Strausbaugh on the game's first offensive play that resulted in a spectacular in-stride 72-yard touchdown strike. The duo had another lengthy touchdown pass – this time from 56 yards out on a nice play fake by Muntean resulting in Strausbaugh springing free from Wabash's defense – to pull Wooster within three (24-21) at the 6:19 mark of the second quarter.
In the third quarter, a third touchdown pass of 40-plus yards – this one a 42-yard Muntean-to-Jacob Lewis completion at the 8:02 mark – gave Wooster a 28-27 lead after the extra point was chipped in by senior Trevor Bowden. That's where the score stood until Wabash's Kirby Cox shielded his body from Wooster's secondary to secure a well-placed throw by Weston Murphy for the go-ahead score with 13:34 to go in the contest.
Wooster turned in a series of big plays leading up to the third-quarter touchdown. First, Bowden pinned Wabash at its own 1-yard line with a school-record 78-yard punt, the longest in Div. III this season. Next, on Wabash's second-down play, senior Patrick Johnson knifed through the line to drop Ike James for a four-yard loss. Then, freshman Christian Dokes dragged halfback Matt Penola down two yards shy of the chains on the next play forcing Wabash to punt.
|Sophomore Christian Santos secures his first of two interceptions during Saturday's game.|
Ahead by five, Wabash was on its way to running the clock out, as the Little Giants took over with 9:24 remaining and kept the chains moving during a 13-play drive thanks to an 8-yard run on a third-and-4 play by James and an 11-yard Murphy-to-Dylan Buresch pass on a third-and-8 play. Then, Santos stepped in front of a Wabash receiver on a fourth-down pass at Wooster's 27 yard line giving the Scots new life with just under 2:30 remaining. However, Wooster's drive never gained any traction as Ryan Walters was in the thick of things on the Scots' third- and fourth-down plays with pass breakups to seal the game for the Little Giants.
Wabash didn't lead until the 4:50 mark of the opening quarter when Murphy found Penola from eight yards out to make it 10-7. The Little Giants did have success on their opening drive before settling for a 34-yard field goal off the foot of Schuyler Nehrig to get on the board with 11:13 to go in the opening quarter.
After Wabash's first touchdown, Wooster marched right down the field with a 14-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard Muntean-to-Lewis touchdown, shifting the score back in favor of the Scots at 14-10 with 14:28 to go before halftime.
That lead didn't hold for long as the Little Giants' Isaac Avant broke free from Wooster's defense for a 63-yard touchdown scamper on the third play of the ensuing drive to pull Wabash back ahead 17-14, and the Little Giants extended the lead to 10 with 10:11 to go in the first half when James plunged in from one yard out.
Wabash took over with 6:36 left in the second quarter after Wooster's ensuing drive stalled out a yard shy of the first-down marker, but Santos quickly picked up the offense with his first of two interceptions in the game. Wooster's offense didn't waste any time from there with the 56-yard Muntean-to-Strausbaugh touchdown taking place on the drive's first play.
For the game, Muntean's 10 completions went for 229 yards, and four of them went for scores give the senior signal-caller his fifth career game with at least four passing touchdowns. Of note, the four touchdown passes moved Muntean up to third on the program's all-time list in that category at 49.
On the afternoon, Strausbaugh was responsible for 141 of the yards – his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game – and two of the touchdowns, while Lewis turned three receptions into 64 yards and a pair of scores.
Wabash, which ran the ball for 327 yards on 63 carries, had 100-yard days from Avant and James. James led the way with 37 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Avant toted it 16 times for 126 yards and a score.
Defensively, Evan Hansen and Byshup Rhodes each had four tackles.
Wooster is idle next week before remaining at home to take on Oberlin College (2-2, 1-2) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.