The College of Wooster football team was within one of North Coast Athletic Conference power Wabash College with 9:43 to go in the opening half, but the Little Giants responded with 27 unanswered points en route to a 48-20 win over the Fighting Scots on Saturday afternoon at Hollett Little Giant Stadium in Crawfordsville, Ind.
Wooster (2-3, 1-3 NCAC) had success extending drives throughout the day, as the Scots were 10-for-15 on third down against a Wabash (4-0, 3-0 NCAC) team that had been holding the opposition to a meager 32.7 conversion percentage on the year.
The Scots' ability to convert on third down was at the forefront of Wooster's first scoring drive of the day – a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard Mateo Renteria-to-Nick Strausbaugh touchdown. Leading up to the touchdown that pulled Wooster within 7-6 with 1:50 remaining in the opening quarter, Renteria found junior Jacob Lewis for 17 yards on a third-and-5 play, and Renteria and Strausbaugh hooked up on an 18-yard pass when faced with a third-and-11 situation.
Two drives later, Renteria and Strausbaugh cashed in again, this time with a 30-yard touchdown connection that capped a 9-play, 75-yard drive with 9:43 left in the opening half. Prior to the touchdown strike, Renteria and Lewis connected for a 5-yard gain on a third-and-1 play, and senior Antonio Bailey found some room to maneuver in the run game for a 7-yard gain on a third-and-3 play.
Wabash, which led 14-13 at that point thanks to blocking Wooster's first extra point try, marched right down the field with Austin Hoover darting in from a yard out to cap an 8-play, 63-yard drive, and that marked the first six of an eventual 27 unanswered points by the Little Giants.
Earlier in the game, Wooster's 11th-ranked rushing defense in Div. III entering the week was put to the test immediately by Wabash. The Little Giants' Isaac Avant was off to the races for 55 yards on Wabash's first offensive play from scrimmage, and Hoover capped the 4-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown for the game's opening score at the 9:52 mark.
Prior to Wooster's second touchdown, Wabash pulled ahead by eight on a 62-yard pass from Jake Reid to Ra'Shawn Jones with 13:29 left in the second quarter. Reid went on to find Oliver Page from 10 yards out in the final minute of the first half to send Wabash into the locker room with a 28-13 lead.
After halftime, Hoover capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown – his third score of the game. Next, Avant put the finishing touches on an 11-play, 60-yard drive with a 5-yard score that made it 41-13 with :09 to play in the third quarter.
Then, Renteria took charge and led Wooster on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard pass to Bailey for the Scots' final score of the day. Prior to the touchdown, the Scots' rookie signal-caller found his groove with completions to Strausbaugh for 16 yards, Bailey for 14, and Lewis for 11.
Wabash's Mason Durrett tacked on a late 22-yard touchdown run for the final score of the day.
Renteria completed 22-of-35 passes for 227 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in his second collegiate start. Strausbaugh accounted for 114 of the yards on seven receptions, while Lewis turned four catches into 42 yards.
Defensively, junior Christian Santos logged a game-high 12 tackles, and the Scots' defensive back was followed by senior Marcus Bowers and sophomore Mark Herron, who had nine and eight tackles, respectively.
Wabash's Avant recorded 131 of the Little Giants' 300 rushing yards on 20 carries, while Hoover also toted the ball 20 times and went for 92 stripes.
Defensively, Wabash's Jake Page had a team-high eight tackles and the lone takeaway of the day, which came in the form of an interception.
Wooster is idle next week and returns to the gridiron on Oct. 13 for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Oberlin College (1-3, 1-2 NCAC).