Scots Capitalize On Big Plays in All Phases, Come Up Just Short in Upset Bid of Little Giants

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.

Defensively, Johnson logged a career-high 14 tackles while first-years Danté Fair and Beau Greenwood were both over 10 tackles in the game.

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.