Big-Play Attack Powers No. 18 Wittenberg Past Allegheny
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – Nationally-ranked Wittenberg showcased its quick-strike capability in handing Allegheny one of its worst defeats in the Coach Matlak era. Although the defense made several big stops against the Tigers' highly potent attack, five scoring plays averaging 44 yards ignited a lopsided result as Wittenberg defeated the Gators, 38-3, at Edwin-Maurer Field.
Allegheny dominated the time of possession on Saturday, holding the ball for over 38 minutes and running 32 more offensive plays than the Tigers (78-46). But the Gators (2-2, 0-1 NCAC), who were so impressive in last week's victory over DePauw, struggled to contain an explosive Wittenberg (4-0, 2-0 NCAC) attack that averaged 9.7 yards per play. Each team yielded 16 first downs, but the Tigers out-gained the Blue and Gold, 444-300.
The Gators enjoyed a strong start to the game after making several big plays on Wittenberg's first offensive series. Colin Hartford made an excellent tackle on a screen pass four yards behind the line of scrimmage on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage, while Matt Myschisin recovered a fumble two plays later to set the Gators up in Wittenberg territory. Quarterback Jordan Fowler converted a key third down with a 13-yard rush, then converted another with a seven-yard pass to Eric Mastrogiacomo that put Allegheny firmly inside the red zone. Although the Gators were denied the end zone, Ryan Zipf booted a 25-yard field goal to give Allegheny the early, 3-0 lead.
With four minutes left in the opening quarter, Reed Florence capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run. Giving the Tigers a lead they wouldn't relinquish, the 24-yard score was the shortest of the day for Wittenberg. With just over a minute left before halftime, Ben Zoeller linked up with Josh McKee for an 80-yard touchdown pass that pushed the score to 17-3.
Both teams were kept off the board throughout most of the third quarter as Wittenberg continued to stifle Allegheny's offense, while the Gator defense forced two three-and-outs against the Tigers. As the clock expired on the period, McKee hauled in a 31-yard pass from Zoeller to cap a three-play drive. Zoeller and McKee hooked up a third time on Wittenberg's first possession of the fourth with a 33-yard TD connection that once again capped a three-play drive. Florence broke into the secondary and raced 50 yards to the end zone to close out the scoring with less than 90 seconds left in regulation.
Fowler completed 24-of-34 passes for 163 yards. Brian Tamburlin was the signal-caller's top target with seven catches for 51 yards. Tamburlin added 30 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Zoeller finished 16-of-24 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Every passing score went to McKee, who finished with seven catches and 179 yards.
The win marked the 24th consecutive regular-season victory for the perennial national power, and Wittenberg's 16th consecutive win at home. The Tigers, who were nearly upended by the Gators last season in Meadville, haven't lost an NCAC game since 2008.