BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - The Illinois Wesleyan Titans scored with 1:15 to play in the game to rally for a 49-42 win at home over Carthage on Saturday, Nov. 6.
The Titans, who led 17-0 early in the game, put together a 17-play, 96-yard drive for the gamewinner, capped off by a 29-yard touchdown pass to Joey Driver from senior Brien Rooney. The two-point conversion pass from Rooney to Brett Robinson provided the final margin.
With the win on "Seniors' Day", Illinois Wesleyan improved to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin while the Red Men fell to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in the league.
The Titans built up a 17-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the contest. After Evan Jones was intercepted at his own 45-yard line, Illinois Wesleyan got a 30-yard field goal by freshman Tim Hollowed with 8:32 to go in the first period. On the next Red Men drive, the Titan junior Bret Swango returned a blocked Tyler Funk punt 20 yards for a touchdown to stake IWU to a 10-0 lead.
On the next Carthage drive, another blocked punt led to another Swango touchdown as he recovered the ball at the 2 yard line and took it to the end zone to give the Titans a 17-0 lead at the 5:00 mark.
A snap over the head of IWU punter Dennis Zic led to a Carthage safety with 1:39 to play in the first quarter, making the score 17-2, and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Pete Djurickovic with 34 seconds to play in the period narrowed the gap to 17-8 after the two-point conversion failed.
The Red Men struck again early in the second quarter. Zic had a punt blocked and Carthage's Brett Hogen returned the ball to the 7-yard line. One play later, Jones found Mike Koeneman on a 13-yard TD pass, cutting the lead to 17-15 with 13:13 to play before halftime. A 19-yard field goal by Funk at 6:50 in the second period gave Carthage an 18-17 lead but IWU came right back with a four-play, 70-yard scoring drive, finished by a 15-yard pass from Rooney to Michael Sloboda. The two-point conversion was good, putting Illinois Wesleyan ahead by a 25-18 score with 5:06 to play in the first half. Hogen's second interception, late in the half, set up a 21-yard field goal by Tyler Funk with 16 seconds left in the half that pared the Titans' lead to 25-21.
Illinois Wesleyan took a 32-21 lead with an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive early in the third period. The drive ended with 10:00 to play in the third with an 11-yard TD pass from Rooney to Driver at 10:00. Carthage running back Jake Smith fumbled on the next series, and IWU capitalized with a 22-yard field goal by Hollowed at 6:32 to boost their advantage to 35-21. Carthage came back with a five-play, 68-yard scoring drive with a key play being a 44-yard grab by Chris Schulz. The score came from an 8-yard TD catch by James Bochnovic to get the Red Men within seven, 35-28 with 5:38 to go in the third.
A 48-yard kickoff return by senior Bo Lanter set up a Titan touchdown run by Rooney at 3:36 to make it 41-28 and another long reception of 58 yards by Schulz highlighted a six-play, 66-yard Carthage scoring drive that ended with a one-yard carry by Jake Smith at 1:54 to make it a 41-35 IWU lead. The Red Men recaptured the lead, 42-41, on a 17-yard touchdown strike from Jones to Koeneman with 12:53 to play in the game. That 95-yard drive also featured a long pass play, a 35-yard catch by Pete Djurickovic.
Illinois Wesleyan scored the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute to play in the contest, capping an 18-play, 96-yard scoring drive. A 29-yard TD pass from Rooney to Driver ended the drive. . Carthage turned the ball on downs on its next possession, as did IWU.
Carthage totaled 491 offensive yards, 97 rushing and 394 passing, while Illinois Wesleyan had 424 total yards, 149 on the ground and 275 in the air. Rooney completed 17 of 33 passes for 275 yards and three TDs and rushed 25 times for 80 yards to lead the team. Lanter had 16 carries for 50 yards and senior Eli Williams had 10 rushes for 49 yards.
Driver was the Titans' leading receiver with six catches for 128 yards while Brett Robinson (three catches) and Dayton Burnett (five catches) each had 51 yards.
Lanter also had six kickoff returns for 187 yards to set up good field position for IWU during the game.
In addition to his two blocked punt touchdowns, Swango was the Titans' leading tackler with seven while Ryan Gresko and Scott Wenzel each had six.
Jones completed 25-of-41 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Schulz caught six passes for 181 yards, and Koeneman caught eight for 94 yards and two touchdowns. Smith rushed for 88 yards on 22 carries. Outside linebacker Brad Fortney led both team with 14 tackles (7 solo, 7 assisted), including one sack.
IWU, who won all five of its home games this year, finishes its season at Augustana at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Nov. 13.