GRANVILLE, Ohio – The College of Wooster football team scored in impressive fashion on its opening drive, and nearly extended its lead on its subsequent possession, but it was mostly Denison University from there as the Big Red topped the Fighting Scots 66-18 on Saturday evening at Deeds Field-Piper Stadium, and in doing so, retained possession of the "Old Red Lantern" for the fifth straight year.
Wooster (5-4, 4-4 North Coast Athletic Conference) found success early with its tight ends down the middle of the field. Faced with a third-and-8 on its opening drive, freshman Mateo Renteria found junior Jacob Lewis for a 28-yard gain to move the chains, and later delivered a quick slant to freshman tight end Cole Hissong that went for 15 yards on a second-and-2 play. Senior Antonio Bailey capped the 7-play, 75-yard drive with a 16-yard burst right up the middle, and the touchdown moved the four-year starter into the program's all-time top-10 list for rushing touchdowns. Alas, Wooster's extra point try was blocked keeping the score at 6-0 at the 12:43 mark.
Defensively, Wooster started strong and kept Denison's potent ground game from getting going on the first drive. After the Big Red picked up a first down, freshman Eric Kraus bottled up standout running back Alex Minton for a 2-yard gain, and sophomore Kea'Shaun Phillips and junior Christian Santos were quick to the ball on the second-down play.
After getting the ball back on a punt, Renteria dialed up a similar combination to the Scots' first drive with a 12-yard completion to Lewis and a 28-yard gain to Hissong. A 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Big Red moved the ball down to Denison's 15-yard line, but Wooster couldn't capitalize, and the Scots' field goal try sailed wide.
Denison quarterback Canaan Gebele darted in from 1 yard out with 2:19 left in the opening quarter to cap a 12-play, 80-yard march down the field, and the subsequent extra point try by Patrick Kramer bumped the Big Red past the Scots at 7-6.
Kramer's big leg proved to make a major impact in the game, as the Big Red's sophomore drilled a 43-yard field goal that made it 10-7 with 12:59 left in the first half.
Prior to the field goal, Wooster's defense made a few big plays, starting with sophomore Mark Herron breaking up a pass deep down the middle of the field. Junior Robert Alvarez grabbed just enough of Gebele's jersey to drag the Big Red's signal-caller down for a loss of three yards on a designed run, and on the third-down play, junior D'Andre Brown tipped a ball at the line of scrimmage.
Denison tacked on three more touchdowns before halftime to break the game wide open at 31-6. Gebele started the Big Red scoring spree with a 5-yard run at the 7:10 mark, and then connected with David Weimer on a 28-yard touchdown strike. Denison turned to its bag of tricks with :26 left before halftime, and Weimer returned the favor with a 5-yard touchdown strike to Gebele.
Denison scored on its first two possession of the second half, starting with a 14-yard Gebele-to-Cody Farley touchdown strike. Then, Gebele pushed the scored to 45-6 with just under 11 minutes left in the third quarter with a 7-yard run.
Wooster freshman Troy Baughman sparked Wooster with a 35-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, and that boosted the offense as Renteria fired completions of 33 and 27 yards to junior Nick Strausbaugh, the second of which went for the Scots' second score of the game.
Sophomore Seth Burke scored the Scots' final touchdown on the night via a 4-yard run with 10:06 left in the game.
Renteria completed 15-of-32 throws on the night for 261 yards and a touchdown. Strausbaugh led the way receiving with four receptions for 115 yards, while Bailey toted the ball 12 times for 44 stripes.
Sophomore Beau Greenwood's 13 tackles marked the game-high.
Gebele accounted for eight touchdowns and finished with 404 yards of total offense. Weimar caught 11 passes for 190 yards, while Minton went for 131 stripes on 20 carries.
Ryan Zinkula's seven tackles led Denison.
Wooster closes its 2018 season at home against No. 22 Wittenberg University (8-1, 7-1 NCAC) at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10.