BEXLEY, Ohio – The Otterbein football team earned revenge over cross-town rival Capital on Saturday afternoon, escaping Bernlohr Stadium with a wild 49-42 victory after an interception from safety Fred Hardgrove in the closing minutes.
The Cardinals, now 4-1 on the season and 3-1 in Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) play, win for the fifth time in six years with the outlier being last season's 42-41 defeat at Memorial Stadium. The team will now head into its bye week.
Otterbein took the early momentum, with linebacker Austin Jones intercepting Capital QB Thomas Wibbeler on the third play from scrimmage to give the Cards possession in plus territory. Christian Johnson ultimately busted a 20-yard touchdown run up the gut, and Tanner Brooks' extra point gave Otterbein a 7-0 advantage.
Capital evened the score on its next possession, benefiting from the Cards jumping offside on a 4th-and-2 play near midfield. Wibbeler chucked a 43-yard score to Dar Stanford moments later.
Hardgrove picked off a deep pass in the end zone towards the end of the first quarter, and Otterbein embarked on an eight-play drive that culminated with quarterback Logan Stepp breaking a 49-yard touchdown run while making a few defenders miss. The Cards appeared to be heading in for another TD early in the second quarter, but the Crusader defense somehow ripped the ball away from Otterbein's Isaiah Richmond as he was falling to the ground.
Capital took the ball and proceeded on a lengthy drive downfield, converting multiple third-down plays and finally getting a one-yard pass from Wibbeler to Stanford. The extra-point was wide left, leaving the score 14-13.
Otterbein immediately responded, watching Stepp strike with another 49-yard run and then hitting Payton Vanderkooion a slant pass a few plays later for a five-yard touchdown. Capital responded with a long TD pass before the break, then made the two-point conversion to lock the contest at 21-21 entering halftime.
Otterbein took the second-half kickoff and scored with a 15-yard fade from Stepp to Hunter Joseph on third down, and both teams traded scores over the following minutes until Jones made a critical play for the Cardinal defense by drilling a Crusader ball carrier to force a fumble. It was recovered by Steven Carpenter and led to a 12-yard rushing TD from Johnson on the next play, upping the margin to 42-28.
Capital scored 14-unanswered points to tie things at 42-42, but Stepp then hit Julian Lowe on what ended up being a game-winning 22-yard touchdown pass with 7:42 to play. Lowe tallied his moment of redemption after a frustrating third-down-drop on the previous series.
"I let the guys down with that drop, and was so eager to make up for it when we got the ball back," Lowe said. "I was glad they called my number again and was able to finish the job that time. This is such a big win for us."
The Otterbein defense got off the field twice in the closing minutes, the finale being Hardgrove's second interception of the game as Capital was threatening towards the red zone. A Wibbeler pass across the middle was slightly tipped by Jones and then snagged by Hardgrove, who scampered more than 70 yards to ice the game.
"We just kept fighting," Hardgrove said. "There were a lot of plays made by both teams and we just kept telling ourselves to hang tough. I was glad to see that ball coming towards me at the end and make a play for my teammates. We all had each other's back out there."
Otterbein held a 495-476 edge in total offense, getting 313 yards on the ground and then Stepp going 16 of 24 for 182 yards and three TD's passing. Johnson toted 16 times for 117 yards and two scores while Stepp went 14 times for 180. He had five total touchdowns on the day.
Lowe finished with eight grabs for 108 yards and Joseph had five for 44. Hardgrove matched a season-high with 16 tackles while Jones and linebacker Jake Harper compiled 13 and 10, respectively.
Wibbeler was impressive for Capital, completing 32 of 45 attempts for 399 yards and a whopping six touchdowns. Stanford had three and wide receiver David Barnett had two as duo combined for 17 catches and 278 yards.
The intense game featured many momentum changes as both teams racked up multiple penalties and combined for six turnovers. The Cards were whistled 15 times for 146 yards and Capital was tagged 10 times for 72.