#17-Wheaton rallies with 24 unanswered points to top Carthage, 31-24
Wheaton, Ill. – The Wheaton College football team improved to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in CCIW play following a come-from-behind 31-24 victory against Carthage (4-3/1-3 CCIW) on Saturday night. Wheaton is ranked 17th in the D3football.com top-25 poll. Tonight's game was delayed 27 minutes in the third by lightning.
Wheaton trailed 24-7 at halftime; however, the hosts were able to score 24 un-answered points in the second half. The Wheaton defense also held Carthage to just 45 yards of offense in the second half. Wheaton recorded 482 yards of offense in the game on 87 plays, averaging 5.5 yards per play. The Thunder threw for 277 yards and ran for 205 yards. Carthage had 329 yards of offense, with 309 passing yards and 20 rushing yards. After averaging 8.6 yards per play in the first half, the Red Men averaged just 1.4 yards per play following halftime.
Carthage booted a 22-yard field goal with 11:12 remaining in the first quarter to give the guests a 3-0 lead. Wheaton took a 7-3 lead with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Jordan Roberts threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Justin Zeller. Zeller's touchdown capped a 10-play drive of 70 yards. Carthage regained the lead with a 10-7 advantage on a seven-yard touchdown catch by Mike Koeneman with 56-seconds left in the first quarter. Red Men receiver Matt Popp caught a pair of touchdown passes in the second quarter to extend Carthage's lead to 24-7 at halftime.
Following Carthage's first drive of the third quarter, Wheaton senior Tyler Langs collected a punt return at the Carthage 47-yard line and returned it 17 yards to the Red Men 30-yard line and giving Wheaton out-standing field position. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Roberts connected with tight end Austin Zoerhof on a 26-yard touchdown toss to cut Carthage's lead to 24-13 with 12:00 remaining in the third quarter. The Wheaton defense forced Carthage to punt after three plays on the next drive. After starting at its own 34-yard line Wheaton marched the ball to the Carthage 18-yard line, when lightning in the area forced a 27-minute delay. Three plays after the resumption of the game, Roberts connected with Zoerhof on a 12-yard touchdown pass to cap a 10-play drive of 66 yards to cut Carthage's lead to 24-19. With 54-seconds remaining in the third quarter, Wheaton junior Jordan Langs intercepted a Carthage pass at the Thunder 42-yard line and returned 52 yards for a touchdown to give Wheaton its first lead of the second half with a 25-24 advantage.
Roberts scored on a two-yard touchdown run to extend Wheaton's lead to 31-24 with 11:50 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Wheaton defense held Carthage to just 19-yards of offense in the final 12 minutes of the game to prevent a Carthage rally and secure the victory for the hosts.
Robert completed 20 of his 35 passing attempts for 277 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also ran for 110 yards, with one touchdown run. Freddy Ellis caught four passes for 102 yards, with a 72 yard reception. Rocky Gingg carried the ball 15 times for 50 yards.
Thunder linebacker Jordan Chapman made nine total tackles and defensive back Bryan McBroom added eight stops. Jordan Langs made seven tackles and had the critical 58-yard interception return. JD East recorded seven tackles, including three sacks (-30 yards) and four tackles for loss (-34yards).
Carthage quarterback Evan Jones was 26-40 passing, with 269 yards and two touchdown tosses. Chris Schulz caught seven passes for 84 yards and Koeneman caught seven passes for one touchdown. Josh Brennan and Brad Fortney led the Carthage defense with 13 total tackles apiece.
The Thunder will return to action next Saturday with a 1 PM kickoff at Augustana. Carthage will host North Park next Saturday.