ELMHURST, Ill. - The Elmhurst College football team's upset bid
of 12th-ranked Wheaton College fell just short as the Bluejays were
downed by the Thunder 27-24 in front of a homecoming crowd of over
2,600 fans at Langhorst Field.
Elmhurst (4-1, 1-1 CCIW) led 24-14 at halftime and maintained a 24-21 advantage into the fourth quarter, but Wheaton (5-0, 2-0 CCIW) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:26 left to play. The Bluejays struggled to put points on the scoreboard in the second half and a late turnover by Elmhurst proved to be costly.
Leading 24-14 midway through the third quarter, Elmhurst had a chance to estend its lead on the Thunder as the Bluejays drove to the Wheaton 17-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-one, Scottie Williams was stopped just inches shy of the first down, giving the ball to Wheaton on downs. Two plays later, the Thunder's Jordan Roberts raced 64 yards on an option keeper to the Bluejays' four-yard line. Roberts capped the scoring drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Antal to pull the Thunder to within three points at 24-21.
On its next offensive possession, Elmhurst marched down to the Wheaton 11-yard line, but J.R. Dalicandro's 27-yard field goal attempt sailed just wide to keep the Bluejays' lead at three.
After both teams were forced to punt on their next possessions, Wheaton's Tyler Langs gave the Thunder good field position by returning a punt 36 yards to the Wheaton 46-yard line. Facing a third-and-five from the Elmhurst 35-yard line, Roberts connected with tight end Austin Zoerhof on a 34-yard pass play. Roberts finished the scoring drive with a one-yard toss to Davis Skinner to give the Thunder a 27-24 lead. Elmhurst's Jon Janus blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the Bluejays down by only three points with 6:26 left to play.
Elmhurst was forced to punt on its next possession, but the Bluejays' defense forced Wheaton into a three-and-out and Elmhurst got the ball back at their own 32-yard line with 1:38 left to play. Facing a second-and-10, Joe Furco hit Rodney Payton for a completion to midfield, but Payton was stripped of the ball as he was falling to the turf. The Thunder recovered the loose ball and ran the clock down to just 18 seconds. Furco's hail mary attempt was picked off by Wheaton in the closing seconds to preserve the win for the Thunder.
The Bluejays built a 24-14 lead at halftime with scores from
both the offense and defense. Jamall Lane killed
Wheaton's opening scoring drive bid by intercepting Roberts in the
end zone. Elmhurst wasted little time to get on the scoreboard,
taking its opening drive 80-yards in seven plays with Williams
finding the end zone on an 18-yard run.
Wheaton took advantage of a short field after the Thunder recovered a muffed punt at the Bluejays' 30-yard line. Roberts connected with Antal from 25 yards out to knot the score at seven.
The Bluejays recaptured the lead early in the second quarter when Dalicandro booted a 20-yard field goal. After a Wheaton punt, Elmhurst built a 17-7 lead by driving 86 yards in eight plays. Furco hooked up with Corey Thonn on a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap the drive and put Elmhurst up by 10.
Wheaton answered right back as Garrett Meador hit Zoerhof over the middle for a 52-yard scoring strike to pull the Thunder to within three points.
Elmhurst's defense came up big just before the half when Kyle DeMus picked off Meador and raced 37 yards to the end zone to give Elmhurst a 24-14 lead at the half.
Elmhurst finished with 411 yards of total offense. The Bluejays rushed for 198 yards and passed for 209 yards. Wheaton totaled 395 yards of offense with 159 yards coming on the ground and 178 yards coming through the air.
Williams led the ground attack for the Bluejays, carrying 30 times for 159 yards and a touchdown. Furco completed 12-of-30 passes for 173 yards and a score. Bobby Vavlas was Elmhurst's top target, catching four passes for 67 yards.
Roberts rushed nine times for 82 yards to lead the Thunder's rushing attack. He added 160 yards and three touchdowns through the air by completing 15-of-22 passes. Antal finished with six receptions for 75 yards and two scores while Zoerhof caught three passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Randy Wright led Elmhurst's defense, finishing with 15 tackles (10 solo), including a tackle for loss. Janus added nine stops while Pete Alfano recorded seven.
Langs led Wheaton's defense with eight stops while Jordan Chapman recorded seven for the Thunder.
Elmhurst travels to Illinois Wesleyan University next Saturday (October 16) for a 6:00 p.m. contest against the Titans.