MEADVILLE, Pa. – Nationally-ranked No. 9 Wabash averted a stunning upset on Saturday as Allegheny orchestrated an inspired effort that fell just short. Despite maneuvering down to the Wabash 13-yard line, the Little Giants defense kept the Gators' out of the end zone during the final minute of play and escaped with a 22-16 victory.
With just under five minutes left in regulation, Allegheny (4-4, 2-2 NCAC) was the beneficiary of a huge defensive play as Drew Perry forced a fumble at the Gators' 38-yard line that was recovered by middle linebacker Doug Williams. Following the change of possession, Allegheny pieced together an outstanding 11-play drive that covered 48 yards and ensured that Wabash wouldn't have a chance to respond if the Gators could manufacture the go-ahead score. Senior Brian Tamburlin, who finished with 128 all-purpose yards, paced the attack, while quarterback Jordan Fowler hooked up with rookie Andrew Nicklaus on a 20-yard completion that positioned the Blue and Gold inside the red zone. On a fourth-and-four from the Wabash 13, Fowler's pass to Matt Griffith fell incomplete as Wabash remained among the thinning ranks of the unbeaten (8-0, 5-0 NCAC).
Allegheny outgained Wabash 337-271 and absolutely dominated time of possession by holding the ball for over 37 minutes. The Gators grabbed a 16-14 lead early in the fourth quarter on Ryan Zipf's 38-yard field goal, but Wabash answered right back. Chase Belton tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Horn while completing the ensuing two-point conversion to cap the scoring.
The Little Giants opened the scoring on their second possession as Belton completed a 28-yard pitch-and-catch to standout Wes Chamblee, who finished the day with six grabs for 106 yards. Allegheny responded with a 14-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard field goal by Zipf.
Toward the end of the opening quarter, Allegheny blocked its second punt in three games, and for the second time sophomore Zach Hill was in the middle of the action. Rookie defensive back Raysean Glenn busted through the middle to block the punt while Hill scooped up the ball and returned it 13 yards to set up the Gators at the Wabash 31-yard line. After marching the Gators down the field with a series of completions and a six-yard run that was aided by a personal foul after the play, Fowler connected with fullback Dan Lubarda for a two-yard touchdown pass that gave Allegheny a 10-7 lead.
The Little Giants, who have demonstrated quick-strike capability throughout the season, reclaimed the lead just before halftime by assembling a nine-play 77-yard drive that Belton capped with a three-yard keeper.
Jordan Fowler continues to mature as the Blue and Gold look to finish the campaign strong. The senior signal caller, who is in his first year as a starter, once again put up career numbers after earning back-to-back NCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown, Fowler's 33 completions tied for the second-most in a single game, while his 45 attempts marked the third-highest total in program history, and the most since Jimmy Savage set the record with 58 attempts against Wabash in 2006.
Tamburlin had nine catches for 49 yards while adding a season-high 79 yards rushing. Matt Griffith had seven catches for 60 yards, while Dan Lubarda and freshman Derrick Emigh both set career highs with five grabs.
Zipf, who entered the game ranked among the NCAA leaders in field goals made, tied a career high after going 3-for-3 on Saturday. Prior to the drive that resulted in Zipf's third made kick, defensive back Colin Hartford made a tremendous read on a pass at the Wabash 20-yard line that nearly resulted in Hartford's third pick-six of the season.