If Wabash's 2001 win over DePauw in the Monon Bell is
forever "The Catch," then Saturday's improbable 29-28 playoff win
over North Central should be dubbed "The Comeback."
The No. 9 (and now 12-0) Little Giants rallied from a late third
quarter 28-7 deficit and scored a gutsy two-point conversion with a
minute left to knock off the No. 6-ranked (10-2) Cardinals. Wabash
advances to play at Mount Union Saturday in the national
quarterfinals in Alliance Ohio. Mount Union is the bracket's No. 1
See game photos here, here, and here.
Was the game the Little Giants' best comeback ever? Consider the
made his first start of the year replacing an
. Two of his first three passes were intercepted
and the other was incomplete.
• Wabash had 79 yards of total offense at half time.
• After Burke hit Wes
on a 20-yard scoring strike to open the third
quarter, the Cardinals immediately responded with a 62-yard drive
to push the margin to 28-7 with six minutes left in the third
• After pulling to within 1 at 28-27 on a Jeff
1-yard TD catch, Coach Erik
made one of gustiest calls of his tenure. He
elected to play for the win.
But getting to that play was the making of a memorable and
improbable comeback against one of D3 football's best defenses.
It started with halftime adjustments by Defense Coach B.J. Hammer.
The Wabash defense had allowed 128 first half rushing yards. They
were able to slow that down in the second half.
Burke started the comeback aided by Wes
. He found Chamblee on a 20 yard pass to get
Wabash on the board and then a 33-yard scoring strike on a
fourth-and-8 to cut the margin to 28-14.
Then came one of the key plays of the game for North Central.
After a 9- and 20-yard gain by the Cardinal rushing attack, Cody
forced a Jordan Tassio fumble, recovered by
, at the Wabash 31.
"I thought we had a great drive going and would have put the game
away," said North Central Coach John Thorne said. "We had a fumble,
and he never fumbles."
The momentum had clearly shifted but it still wasn't easy.
North Central forced a fourth-and-12 after a sack. But Burke found
a leaping Wes
at mid-field for the first down. Seven plays
later Burke hit Horn for a 23-yard touchdown, 28-21, that had the
sideline and Little Giant Stadium rocking.
The defense then lived up to its year-long billing and forced a
quick three and out. Burke opened the series taking an 8-yard
"I'd be first to tell you that I'd be nervous in that situation,"
he said of the final drive. "But the pain and the situation, I knew
I had to step up. I had to do it for my team. We were just rolling
and it felt like we had such momentum. I felt like we couldn't be
stopped and that's just how we felt in the fourth quarter. We had
all the confidence in the world we were going to score on that last
Burke clearly was not going to be denied. Facing a fourth-and-14
at his own 29 yard line, the senior quarterback was forced out of
the pocket and took off running for a 16-yard gain and first
"They made some adjustments in the second half, keeping a tight end
and a fullback in to block," said North Central defensive tackle
and Gagliardi Trophy nominee Peter Bulandr. "We got a few good
shots on (Burke) in the second half, but I give him all the credit
in the world. He played a great game."
Two pass completions for 12 and 13 yards to Horn moved the ball to
the Cardinal 24. Wabash faced another fourth down. NCC jumped on
the snap count was penalized giving Wabash another life.
Then Horn stepped up with an 18-yard catch at the 1-yard line.
Burke rolled out and hit sophomore tight end Jeff
for the touchdown, 28-27. (In photo at right, Horn
caught the ball inbounds and was trying to get it to the goal
line.) (Bell celebrates the touchdown, bottom left.)
Then Raeburn decided to go for the win. The Little Giants came out
of the huddle and shifted a portion of their line wide right. A
North Central lineman was called off sides giving Wabash the ball
at the two.
"The play we had called I thought we could get them," Raeburn said
of the two-point conversion attempt. "I didn't want to go to
overtime because they were running ball better than we had. I
thought they'd have the advantage. We decided to go for the win. I
was very confident the play we had called would work.
"Then they jumped off sides and I felt like we couldn't come back
to that play because they'd already seen the shift. Then the play
we had called I thought would work. We tried to throw it to Wes and
he basically got tackled. Then Tyler threw it to James and he
tipped it to Brady just like the way we practiced it."
Of course the last remark was accompanied by a chuckle. In a play
reminiscent of that 2001 Monon Miracle tipped pass catch, Senior
was in the right place at the right time. But
unlike the Monon Miracle, it was not a set play.
"The play was going to Wes, we were going to throw it in the
middle," Young said. "I'm running and taking off for the corner of
the end zone and I see Burke looking to the outside. He threw the
ball to (James) Kraus who's right on the line. My guy goes up and
hits Kraus. I saw the ball was coming a little high. I was standing
back there waiting on it. I was thinking if this is tipped anywhere
I'm going after it. I'm going to get it. And you know, it tipped
right into my hands."
The improbable Little Giant rally was complete. Wabash led 29-28
with just 52 seconds to play.
The Cardinals had a last gasp snuffed out by the Wabash
defense. They got the ball on their own 18 and threatened to move
into field goal range. On six plays North Central had moved the
ball to the Wabash 36. Austin
secured the win when he picked off Tyler Dicken's
pass at the Wabash 24.
"I'm super proud of our team, how hard they played and how they
kept fighting," Raeburn said. "Even though we were down big, I'm
particularly proud of this guy (as he pats Burke on shoulder in the
postgame news conference). We've had some guys who got beat out for
a starting position and they hung it up. Thank God Tyler is not one
of those guys."
Burke hit 24-of 49 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
had a monster day with 9 catches for 147 yards,
two touchdowns, and 215 all-purpose yards. Senior Jonathan
had an even bigger day with 13 catches for 152
yards, and a touchdown.
"The emotions are out the roof right now," Horn said. "This is
what we've worked for all season long. Always means always and we
showed that in the second half. We made our corrections at half
time for the second half and I think we wanted it more in the end.
We executed the best we could offensively, defensively, and special
North Central piled up 208 yards rushing to Wabash's 92. But in
the critical fourth quarter the Cardinals managed just 51 yards
rushing and 25 passing.
The huge Wabash advantage came in the passing game where Burke's
311 yards dwarfed the 127 yards that five Cardinal passers
Defensively, CJ Gum
collected 15 tackles with freshman Cody
adding 9 more. Senior Kyle
had an outstanding day with 7 stops. Freshman AJ
Akinridbade had six stops, three of those for a Cardinal loss.
and Jonathan Koop had five tackles