On a cool, crisp day, perfect for football, Carthage College (5-4, 2-4 CCIW) lost a heart-breaking donnybrook to CCIW-opponent Illinois Wesleyan University (7-2, 4-2 CCIW), 49-42, on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Wilder Field at Illinois Wesleyan Stadium in Bloomington, Ill.
After Evan Jones was intercepted at his own 45-yard line, Illinois Wesleyan converted with a 30-yard field goal by Tim Hollowed at 8:32 first period. On the next Red Men drive, the Titans' Bret Swango returned a blocked Tyler Funk punt 20 yards for a touchdown, and Illinois Wesleyan led, 10-0. Swango did it again on the next Carthage drive, returning a blocked Funk punt from the Red Men's nine-yard line two yards for a TD and a quick 17-0 lead at 5:00. A Carthage safety at 1:39 got the Red Men on the scoreboard, 17-2, and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Pete Djurickovic with 34 seconds to play in the period narrowed the gap to 17-8 after the two-point conversion failed.
The Red Men struck again early in the second quarter. The Titans' Dennis Zic had a punt blocked, which Carthage's Brett Hogen returned to the Illinois Wesleyan seven-yard line. One play later, Jones hooked up with Mike Koeneman on a 13-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 17-15 at 13:13 second period. A 19-yard field goal by Funk at 6:50 gave Carthage its first lead, 18-17, but the Titans came right back with a four-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 15-yard pass from Brien Rooney to Michael Sloboda. A 52-yard catch by Joey Driver was the big play in that drive. The two-point conversion was good, and Illinois Wesleyan led, 25-18, with 5:06 to play in the first half. Brett Hogen's second interception, late in the half, set up a 21-yard field goal by Tyler Funk that cut the Titans' lead to 25-21 with 16 seconds to go.
Illinois Wesleyan took an 11-point lead, 32-21, with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive early in the third period. The drive ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Rooney to Driver at 10:00. Carthage's Jake Smith fumbled on the next series, and Illinois Wesleyan capitalized with a 22-yard field goal by Tim Hollowed at 6:32 to up the lead to 35-21. Carthage came right back with a five-play, 68-yard scoring drive that took less than a minute to complete. The big play was a 44-yard catch by Chris Schulz, and the drive ended with an eight-yard TD catch by James Bochnovic that brought the Red Men to within seven points, 35-28, at 5:38.
A 48-yard kickoff return by Bo Lanter set up a Titan touchdown by Rooney at 3:36 to make it 41-28 after Tim Hollowed missed the point-after. A 58-yard reception by Chris Schulz highlighted a six-play, 66-yard Carthage scoring drive that ended with a one-yard carry by Jake Smith at 1:54 to make it a one-possession game, once again, at 41-35. The Red Men took their first lead since early in the second quarter on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Mike Koeneman at 12:53 fourth period, and Carthage led by one point, 42-41. The big play on the 95-yard scoring drive was a 35-yard catch by Pete Djurickovic.
Illinois Wesleyan scored the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute to play in the contest, capping an 18-play, 96-yard scoring drive. A 29-yard TD pass from Rooney to Driver ended the drive. The two-point conversion was good, and the Titans led by seven, 49-42, with 1:15 to play. Carthage turned the ball on downs on its next possession, as did IWU. The Red Men had one final play and attempted a "hook-and-ladder" pass that failed, as time ran out in the three-hour and 21-minute game.
Carthage totaled 491 offensive yards, 97 rushing and 394 passing, while Illinois Wesleyan had 424 total yards, 149 on the ground and 275 in the air. Evan Jones completed 25-of-41 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Schulz caught six passes for 181 yards, and Mike Koeneman caught eight for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Jake Smith rushed for 88 yards on 22 carries. Outside linebacker Brad Fortney led both team with 14 tackles (7 solo, 7 assisted), including one sack.
"Our kids gave us a great effort," said Carthage coach Tim Rucks, "but we couldn't quite get over the hump with a big play when we needed one. It was a hard loss to take. They threw a game-winning touchdown pass over our best cornerback. While we showed some character today, you get frustrated when you don't get the results. Elmhurst will be another tough game this week, but we'll be ready. The kids are down now, but that's natural after a game like this. They'll bounce back." Carthage closes out its 2010 season on Saturday, Nov. 13 by playing host to conference-opponent Elmhurst College (6-3, 3-3 CCIW) in a 1 p.m. game at Art Keller Field in Kenosha, Wis.