WESTERVILLE, Ohio – The Otterbein University football team reclaimed the Rhine River Cup for the first time in five years Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, outlasting Heidelberg University by a score of 45-38 in a back-and-forth affair.
The schools took part in the first-ever collegiate football game played in Germany back in 1992, ending in a 7-7- tie. Both sides have been competing for the Cup ever since, with the Cards now holding a 14-10-1 edge as a result of snapping Heidelberg's five-game win streak in the series.
The Cardinals, advancing to 3-3 overall and 3-2 within Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) play, hit the scoreboard first on a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Logan Stepp to wide receiver Julian Lowe. The play came on a 4th-and-8 when the Student Princes jumped offside and the Cards took a free shot downfield.
Heidelberg (2-4, 2-3 OAC) countered with 10-straight points to take the lead, but Otterbein went into intermission ahead 14-10 after a one-yard TD from Christian Johnson and then getting a blocked field goal from defensive lineman Andre Douglas just before the quarter ended.
Both teams began trading scores in the third quarter, which included Otterbein junior wideout Hunter Joseph hauling in wild touchdowns receptions of 35 and 67 yards. Joseph, who missed last week's Muskingum game with an injury, made an impressive 35-yard grab on 4th-and 11 and then manufactured his 67-yard score on some shifty moves after a catch and run.
Otterbein took a 28-24 lead into the final quarter, and then pushed the gap to 11 points after senior Jalen Liggins made a turnaround interception up the sideline that ultimately led to a seven-yard TD run from Isaiah Richmond. The Cards appeared to have put the game out of reach with a lengthy 16-play, 95-yard drive that culminated in Richmond's second score of the game, running the margin to 42-24 with 5:30 remaining.
The Student Princes didn't go quietly, however, returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and then holding Otterbein to a field goal after failing to recover an onside kick.
Heidelberg made it a one-possession game almost immediately after getting the ball back, going 58 yards in just four plays to claw within 45-38. Otterbein recovered another onside kick moments later, but the Berg' got the ball back one final time after stopping the Cards and burning all three timeouts.
The Student Princes took over at their own 20-yard line with 1:06 remaining, picking up two first downs before Otterbein senior Kyle Blust tallied a game-ending sack for the second-straight week.
Stepp led the offensive production with a sensational effort, setting a new school-record for total offense in a game with 477 yards. He threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns and then rushed 20 times for another 112.
Joseph finished with six grabs for 221 yards and his pair of scores, coming up just shy of the Otterbein single-game receiving record of 244, set back in 1999 by All-American Ben Streby. Lowe finished with four grabs for 96 yards and his fifth TD of the year.
Johnson and Richmond carried the ground work, combining to contribute 27 rushes for 102 yards and their trio of scores. Linebacker Austin Jones paced the Cardinal defense early and often, finishing with a game-high 12 tackles and one for a loss.
Heidelberg quarterback Tyler Stoyle was impressive as well, completing 25 of 39 attempts for 364 yards to accompany three touchdowns and a pick. Demetrius Magee posted eight catches for 139 yards and caught a touchdown for his ninth-straight game, while standout defensive lineman Austin Crow led his unit with nine stops.
Both sides combined for 1,051 yards of total offense, 44 first downs and 143 plays. Otterbein's 579 yards marks the most in a game since the turn of the century.
The Cards dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 35:30 of game time compared to Heidelberg's 24:30.