The Wittenberg Tigers got back to basics after suffering their first regular season loss since 2008, and the results were encouraging in a 45-7 defeat of North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) rival Kenyon.
The win moved the 24th-ranked Tigers to 6-1 overall and, more importantly, 4-0 in the NCAC. It was Wittenberg's 17th straight NCAC win, dating back to 2008, and it was the Tigers' 20th win in a row over Kenyon, dating back to 1914.
Kenyon fell to 0-6 overall and 0-3 in the conference. The Lords have lost 19 straight games.
Wittenberg jumped on top less than one minute into the game on a 61-yard touchdown strike from senior quarterback Ben Zoeller (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier) to sophomore Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont). Sophomore quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern) and senior tailback Conner Warye (Maineville, Ohio/Kings) added short touchdown runs before Kenyon got on the board with a 13-play, 62-yard drive.
The Tigers took a 28-7 lead into the locker room at halftime, however, responding to Kenyon's score with a five-play, 54-yard drive of their own that was capped by Warye's one-yard TD plunge. The second half was all Wittenberg, featuring three long scoring drives. Sophomore tight end Stephen Zumdick (Erlanger, Ky./Dixie Heights) caught his first collegiate touchdown pass, junior Sean Williams (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) chipped in with a 20-yard field goal and Florence capped the day with a two-yard scoring burst.
Wittenberg didn't just dominate on the scoreboard. The Tigers gained 26 first downs, compared to 10 for the Lords, and the difference in total offense was a whopping 544-201. For the first time in 2011, Wittenberg's offense featured great balance with 234 yards rushing and 310 yards passing.
Zoeller finished with 226 yards on 11-of-20 passing, while Florence contributed 7-of-8 for 84 yards. Warye has a career-high 130 yards on 18 carries, backed ably by sophomore JaVanh Sanders (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial), who also posted career-highs with 60 yards on 13 rushing attempts. Senior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) led the receiving corps with five catches for 63 yards, with senior Josh McKee (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) adding three receptions for 87 yards. He is now 12 catches short of the NCAC career record and 10 receiving yards shy of the top 25 in NCAA Division III history.
Defensively, the Tigers spread the statistics around. Sophomore linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) led with seven tackles, including five solo stops, and a fumble recovery. Three other players finished with five tackles, including sophomore safety Mark Swope (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn), who added two tackles for loss.
Next up for Wittenberg is its annual Homecoming game against Carnegie Mellon at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.