The opportunistic Wittenberg Tigers combined big plays on offense with a swarming defensive effort to put together a thorough 38-3 win over visiting Allegheny.
The win was Wittenberg's 24th straight in regular season play, 15th straight in North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) action and 16th in a row in the friendly confines of Edwards-Maurer Field. It moved the Tigers (#18 AFCA, #19 d3football.com) to 4-0 as they neared the midway point of the 2011 season, while Allegheny fell to 2-2. Wittenberg is now 2-0 in the NCAC, compared to 0-1 for the Gators.
The game started well enough for Allegheny, which came up with a fumble near midfield after going three-and-out on its first possession. The Gators took a short-lived 3-0 lead on the ensuing drive, but the Tigers bounced back on the next possession to score the first of what would turn out to 38 unanswered points.
Sophomore quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern) started things off with a 24-yard touchdown run at the 4:05 mark of the first quarter. After bouncing the draw play to the outside, Florence bowled over an Allegheny defender and then won a footrace to the end zone.
Florence also applied the finishing touches to the win with a 50-yard run with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter. After most of Allegheny's defenders bit on a fake handoff, Florence took off untouched down the home sideline, again winning a footrace with multiple Allegheny defenders.
In between, junior Sean Williams (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) made his 14th straight field goal, an 18-yard effort in the second quarter, and senior wide receiver Josh McKee (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) chipped in with three long touchdown receptions, covering 80, 31 and 33 yards. McKee became the first player in Wittenberg history to top 200 career receptions, hauling in seven passes to give him 201 in his illustrious collegiate career. Already the school record-holder for career receptions, McKee needs 23 more to equal the NCAC record of 224 by Wooster's Brandon Good.
McKee was the favorite target of senior quarterback Ben Zoeller (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier), who finished 16-for-24 for 294 yards. He also hooked up with senior wideout Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) four times, covering 65 yards.
The big plays by Wittenberg's offense threatened to overshadow the stellar performance turned in by the Tiger defense. The Gators were held to 300 yards on offense despite matching the Tigers in first downs (16 apiece) and nearly doubling the home team in time of possession with more than 38 minutes with the ball.
Senior linebacker Zach Hurtt (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands) led with 14 tackles, while a trio of sophomore teammates joined him in double figures for tackles. Linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) finished with 10 stops, safety Mark Swope (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) added 11 tackles and linebacker Evan Killilea (Columbus, Ohio/DeSales) contributed a career-high 12. In addition, Killilea forced a fumble after a big Allegheny completion near midfield in the second quarter.
The Tigers are back at home again next week when they host Oberlin at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1. Tune into WUSO 89.1-FM or WIZE 1340-AM locally, or follow the Tigers online from anywhere in the world (Watch Live • Listen Live • Live Stats).