/seasons/2011/contrib/20110907xxgwn8

Tigers Reach Landmark With Season-Opening 45-28 Victory Over Capital

More news about: Wittenberg

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — An achievement nearly 130 years in the making took slightly more than 21 hours to complete. The Wittenberg Tigers became the first NCAA Division III program to reach 700 all-time wins after completing a season-opening 45-28 victory over visiting Capital University in a game that was suspended overnight due to severe weather.

The Tigers held a 24-14 lead early in the third quarter on Saturday, but play was stopped when lightning was spotted in the distance. More than an hour later, the gathering storm clouds forced a postponement, and administrators from the two Central Ohio Lutheran-affiliated universities agreed to attempt to finish the game on Sunday.

When play resumed, the Wittenberg passing attack picked up right where it left off the night before. By game's end, senior Josh McKee (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) had become the program's career receptions leader, senior Ben Zoeller (Lousville, Ky./St. Xavier) had set a new standard for passing yards in a game, senior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) had a career-best 193 receiving yards, including the second-longest touchdown reception in school history at 92 yards, and the Tigers had their first win over an Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) opponent since 2001.

The win broke a five-game losing streak against Capital and a six-game skid against OAC rivals, but most importantly it got the 2011 season off to a strong start while creating a new benchmark for NCAA Division II or III programs. Eighteen NCAA Division I programs (Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision) had previously surpassed 700 wins, but Wittenberg is the first in either Division II or III. Click here to read complete news release and watch additional video.

The game opened in hot, humid conditions, which apparently suited the Tigers as they ran out to a 21-0 lead by the early part of the second quarter. Sophomore Logan White (Springfield, Ohio/Graham) made the most of his first career carry, opening the scoring with a 13-yard run with 10:57 left in the first quarter. That was followed by Zoeller's 92-yard scoring strike to Cooper — second only to a 94-yard hook-up between Greg Cornett and Skip Ivery in 2002 — and a four-yard TD catch by McKee from sophomore Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern).

Capital rallied to within 10 points by halftime, before play was suspended with 13:54 on the clock in the third quarter. When the game resumed on Sunday, Zoeller and McKee hooked up on third-and-15 for a 40-yard touchdown pass, but Capital answered with a long drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.

Wittenberg put the game out of reach with two more long scoring strikes from Zoeller, first to Cooper covering 52 yards and then to McKee covering 29 yards. In between, the Tiger defense came up big, stopping the Crusaders on a fourth-and-1 situation near midfield. Junior defensive tackle Justin Bartlett (Washington, Pa./McGuffey) got penetration and knocked the Capital ballcarrier backwards to force a critical turnover on downs.

The Tigers piled up 556 yards of total offense in the game, compared to 362 for Capital. The difference was Wittenberg's passing attack, starting with Zoeller's 456 yards through the air, which broke the record of 439 set by Ryan Holmes in 2004 at Wooster. McKee hauled in nine passes, giving him 181 in his career — three more than Patrick Williams between 2006 and 2009. McKee finished with 159 receiving yards, followed by Cooper with 193. In addition, sophomore Jonathan Stoner (Bowling Green, Ohio/Bowling Green) contributed four catches for 44 yards and sophomore Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont) chipped in with three receptions for 48 yards.

While the Tigers' re-built defense allowed 28 points, the unit performed well considering several short fields created by turnovers. Three players — including two making their first collegiate starts — led the Tigers with 11 tackles each: sophomore safety Mark Swope (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn), senior linebacker Zach Hurtt (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands) and sophomore linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Washington).

The Tigers now face a slightly shorter week than normal to prepare for North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) rival Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday, Sept. 10. Wittenberg will take a 21-game regular season win streak into that contest, which kicks off a 7 p.m. at historic Selby Stadium. In addition, the Tigers are riding a 13-game NCAC win streak after capturing the last two conference titles without a loss.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
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at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Hobart 34, Endicott 17
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at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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at Albright 9, Widener 7
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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at Westminster (Pa.) 41, Bethany 14
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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at LaGrange 38, Brevard 28
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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at Plymouth State 37, Mass-Dartmouth 7
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Union 17, at Curry 14
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at Carnegie Mellon 37, Thomas More 17
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at Western New England 21, Husson 14
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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at Ohio Wesleyan 37, Allegheny 21
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at Misericordia 43, Wilkes 14
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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at McDaniel 27, Gettysburg 20
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at Buffalo State 33, RPI 21
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Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Denison 45, Oberlin 17
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Wartburg 30, Washington U. 20
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at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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at MacMurray 32, Iowa Wesleyan 14
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Springfield 42, WPI 10
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at Cornell 55, Beloit 36
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Hartwick 24, St. John Fisher 21
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at UW-La Crosse 41, Carroll 6
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at St. Scholastica 37, Minnesota-Morris 3
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at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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at UW-Stevens Point 41, Adrian 28
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at Wesleyan 24, Tufts 17
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at Averett 35, Methodist 6
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at Berry 28, Centre 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Grove City 24, St. Vincent 14
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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at Sul Ross State 35, McMurry 7
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at Wilmington 37, Capital 30
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Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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at East Texas Baptist 79, Belhaven 40
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Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Sep. 28: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Shenandoah at Randolph-Macon
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Sep. 29: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Delaware Valley at FDU-Florham
Sep. 23: All times Eastern
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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Sep. 29: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Delaware Valley at FDU-Florham