Elmhurst, Ill. – The Wheaton College football team rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to earn a 27-24 victory at Elmhurst College on Saturday afternoon. Head coach Mike Swider noted after the game, "When you are down like we were, it is so easy to not put in the effort to come back. To come back like that takes some serious character and our kids demonstrated that today."
Wheaton is ranked 18th in D3football.com's Top-25 poll. The Thunder improve to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in CCIW play. Wheaton will host North Park next Saturday night at 6 PM at McCully Stadium. Elmhurst dropped its first game of the season with today's loss as the Bluejays are now 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the CCIW.
Elmhurst scored on its first drive of the game thanks to an 18-yard touchdown run by Scottie Williams to give the hosts a 7-0 lead with 6:43 left in the first quarter. Wheaton's ensuing drive after Williams' touchdown was stalled; however, the punt at the conclusion of the drive was fumbled by the Bluejays' return man and allowed Wheaton to start a new drive at the Elmhurst 30-yard line. On the sixth play of the drive, Thunder quarterback Jordan Roberts threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Antal to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
On a drive early in the second quarter Elmhurst moved the ball to the Wheaton three-yard line on first down, however, the Wheaton defense held strong –resulting in three incomplete Elmhurst passes. Elmhurst was forced to settle for a field goal as kicker JR Dalicandro kicked a 20-yard field with 10:03 left in the second quarter to give the Bluejays a 10-7 lead. Elmhurst increased its lead to 17-7 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Joe Furco to Corey Thonn with 4:45 remaining in the first half. Wheaton quickly countered with a four-play drive of 88 yards that lasted 1:29 and culminated with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Meador to tight end Austin Zoerhof to cut Elmhurst's lead to 17-14 with 3:16 remaining in the first half. Elmhurst's Kyle Demus returned a Wheaton interception 37 yards for a touchdown with 1:00 remaining in the first half to give the Bluejays a 24-14 lead that would be the halftime score.
With 4:20 remaining in the third quarter Elmhurst had moved the ball to the Wheaton 17-yard line and on fourth-and-one the Thunder defense stopped Elmhurst from getting a key first down. Two plays later Roberts scampered down the middle of the field on a 64-yard run to give Wheaton the ball at the Elmhurst nine-yard line. Three plays after his key run, Roberts threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Antal to cut the Bluejays' lead to 24-21 with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter.
With 11:04 left in the fourth quarter Elmhurst missed a 27-yard field goal that would have extended the hosts' lead to 27-21 – so the score remained 24-21 in favor of Elmhurst. Midway through the fourth quarter, Roberts threw a 34-yard pass to Zoerhof to give the Thunder the ball at Elmhurst's one-yard line. On the next play Roberts threw a one-yard touchdown pass to fullback Davis Skinner to give Wheaton a 27-24 lead as the extra-point attempt was blocked. The Thunder defense forced Elmhurst to punt on the next drive and then Wheaton punted on its next drive. Elmhurst regained the ball following the Thunder punt, however, on the second play of the Bluejays' drive the hosts fumbled the ball and Wheaton cornerback Tyler Langs recoverd the fumble and Wheaton was able to hold on for the victory.
Wheaton had 395 yards of offense, with 236 passing yards and 159 rushing yards on the day. Elmhurst recorded 411 yards of offense, passing for 213 yards and rushing for 198 yards. Wheaton held Elmhurst to just 36 yards of offense in the fourth quarter – on 17 Bluejay play attempts.
Roberts completed 15 of his 22 passing attempts for 160 yards, with three touchdown passes. He also ran for 82 yards on carries as he averaged 9.1 yards per carry. Antal caught six passes for 75 yards, with two touchdown receptions. Zoerhof caught three passes for 100 yards with one touchdown catch. Sophomore Peter Jarrett carried the ball 23 times for 62 yards.
Tyler Langs led the Thunder defense with eight total tackles and the key fourth-quarter fumble recovery and two passes broken-up. Junior Jordan Chapman made seven total tackles and defensive lineman Robert Ramsay made six total tackles. Ryan Dougan had a sack of seven yards, amongst his five total tackles. Brian McMullen had an interception to his credit.
Williams carried the ball 30 times for the Bluejays, with 159 rushing yards and one touchdown. Furco completed 12 of his 30 passing attempts for 173 yards, with one touchdown. Elmhurst linebacker Randy Wright made 15 total tackles, and Jon Janus made nine tackles.