The Wittenberg Tigers needed a late defensive stop to secure a hard-fought 27-21 win in the rain at Oberlin. While the result was hardly aesthetically pleasing, the win moved sixth-ranked Wittenberg to a perfect 5-0 at the midway point of the 2010 season.
For the second straight week, the Tigers were pushed to the brink by a homestanding North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) foe. Much like the win at Allegheny a week earlier, when the Tigers forced a turnover on downs inside the final minute to secure a 24-21 win, Wittenberg's defense was once again put to the test. This time, senior defensive tackle Adam Kattoua (Upper Arlington, Ohio/Upper Arlington) took matters into his own hands, sacking Oberlin quarterback Joey Zebelian and forcing a fumble recovered by junior linebacker Zach Hurtt (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands) with just 12 seconds left at the Wittenberg 44-yard line.
Oberlin fell to 2-2 on the campaign, all within the NCAC. Wittenberg is now 3-0 in the conference, heading into an unusual non-conference match-up with NCAC opponent Hiram on Oct. 9.
The Yeomen have not beaten Wittenberg since 1954 and fell to 0-11 in NCAC play against the Tigers. But for the first time since the Tigers joined the conference in 1989, Oberlin kept the final deficit to single digits, thanks in large part to a passing attack that racked up 224 yards on the NCAC's top-ranked defensive unit. Zebelian threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns in the game, but the Tigers did manage two interceptions and five sacks.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers put together a strong performance of their own, including 352 yards through the air from junior quarterback Ben Zoeller (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier). His favorite target once again was junior wide receiver Josh McKee (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh), who hauled in six passes for 172 yards, starting with a 91-yard touchdown reception that evened the score at seven late in the first quarter.
Zoeller was missing his other starting wideout as junior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) sat out the game due to injury. Freshman Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Alter) stepped in and caught seven passes for 90 yards off the bench, while senior Anthony Kralich (Kettering, Ohio/Alter) caught a 41-yard touchdown pass that turned out to be the game-winner in the third quarter.
Wittenberg's trailed 14-7 in the second quarter, but junior tailback Conner Warye (Maineville, Ohio/Kings) scored from one-yard out to tie it. The Tigers took a slim 17-14 lead into the locker room at halftime after sophomore Sean Williams (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) made a 22-yard field goal. He added a 21-yarder in the third quarter.
Defensively, senior end Eddie Vallery (South Solon, Ohio/Madison Plains) led with nine tackles and three passes broken up, while senior linebacker Brad McKinley (Hilliard, Ohio/Davidson) and Hurtt added eight stops each. Kattoua finished with five tackles, including two key sacks, and a pass broken up to go along with his forced fumble.