/seasons/2011/contrib/20111126z2fg55

Burke Rallies Wabash Past North Central

More news about: Wabash

 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 seed.

See game photos here, here, and here.

Tyler Burke
Was the game the Little Giants' best comeback ever? Consider the following:
Tyler Burke made his first start of the year replacing an injured Chase Belton. 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 Chamblee 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 period.
• After pulling to within 1 at 28-27 on a Jeff Bell 1-yard TD catch, Coach Erik Raeburn 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 Chamblee. 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 Buresh forced a Jordan Tassio fumble, recovered by Kyle Najar, 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 Chamblee 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 sack.

"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 drive."

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 down.

Jonathan Horn TD Catch vs. North Central
"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 Bell 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 Brady Young 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 Hodges 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. Wes Chamblee had a monster day with 9 catches for 147 yards, two touchdowns, and 215 all-purpose yards. Senior Jonathan Horn 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 teams."

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 accumulated.

Defensively, CJ Gum collected 15 tackles with freshman Cody Buresh adding 9 more. Senior Kyle Najar had an outstanding day with 7 stops. Freshman AJ Akinridbade had six stops, three of those for a Cardinal loss. Jorge Diaz-Aguilar and Jonathan Koop had five tackles apiece.
Oct. 14: All times Eastern
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Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
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Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
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at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
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at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
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at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
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Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
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at Olivet 47, Albion 26
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Union 27, at Rochester 0
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Amherst 40, at Colby 7
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at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
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Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
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at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
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at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
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Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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DePauw 26, at Denison 17
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at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
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at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
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at Husson 49, Castleton 0
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Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
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at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
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at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
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Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
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at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
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at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
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Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
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at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
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at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
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at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
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at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
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Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
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Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
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at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
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at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
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Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
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at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
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Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
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at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Curry 40, at Becker 0
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TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
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at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
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Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
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at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
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at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
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Alma 27, at Aurora 19
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Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
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Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
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Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
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St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
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Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
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Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Central 30, at Coe 19
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Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
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at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
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at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
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Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
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MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
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Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
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at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
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at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
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Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
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Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
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at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
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UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
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at Hope 22, Adrian 3
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Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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La Verne at Occidental
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Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
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at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
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at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
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at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
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at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
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at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
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Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
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Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
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Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
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at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
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at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
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Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
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