Wheaton, Ill. – The Wheaton College football team scored 22 un-answered points in the fourth quarter to rally for 31-21 victory against Coe College on Saturday afternoon in a NCAA Division III First Round contest. Wheaton continues into the Second Round with a 10-1 record on the season and Coe ends its strong year with a 9-2 overall record. Wheaton will host Bethel University (10-1) next Saturday at Noon in a Second Round game. Bethel advanced with a 28-20 victory at Wartburg College on Saturday afternoon.
Coe struck first in today's game as quarterback Brad Boyle threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jared Kuehner to give the Kohawks a 7-0 lead with 8:13 remaining in the first half. Wheaton reached the scoreboard just before halftime as sophomore quarterback Jordan Roberts connected with senior receiver Freddy Ellis on a 12-yard touchdown pass, with just 26-seconds left in the first half. The ensuing extra point was no good as the two teams went to halftime with Coe holding a 7-6 advantage.
Wheaton took its first lead at the conclusion of the opening drive of the second half as junior Scott Roche kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:51 remaining in the third quarter. Roche's field goal was setup on a 62-yard kickoff return by Teddy Watkins to open the third quarter, getting Wheaton all the way to the Coe 22-yard line.
Boyle scored on a pair of short touchdown runs (two and three yards) in the third quarter to give the Kohawks a 21-9 lead with 5:12 remaining in the third quarter. Wheaton's fourth-quarter comeback actually started late in the third quarter when senior linebacker Cory Hart intercepted a Kohawk pass and returned it to the Coe 46-yard line. Nine plays after Hart's interception, Joey Skogen scored on a four-yard touchdown run to cut the guests' lead to 21-16. The Thunder defense stopped Coe on the next drive with a three-and-out and on the very first play of the ensuing Wheaton drive, Roberts threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Ellis. Wheaton completed the two-point conversion that followed to take a 24-21 lead with 12:30 remaining in the game. The Wheaton defense again forced Coe to punt after three downs to give the Thunder the ball back at the Wheaton 41-yard line. On third down with three yards to go, Roberts broke free for a 36-yard run to get the hosts to the Coe two-yard line. On the next play, senior Rocky Gingg reached the end zone on a two-yard run to extend Wheaton's lead to 31-21 with 8:12 left in the game. The Thunder defense shut down Coe's final two offensive drives and the offense managed the clock to secure Wheaton's seventh consecutive First Round playoff victory.
When asked about key plays that helped Wheaton to rally, Thunder head coach Mike Swider stated, "There were several. They chose to take the wind in the third quarter. I think that sometimes is a tough decision. When you're in that position, you either try to take the wind in the third quarter and knock someone out. Or you try to survive and have it in the fourth quarter. They chose the former of the two, to try and knock us out. Our return to start the second half was as critical a play you could have. Now all of a sudden you change the field position. Our kickoff returns into the wind in the third quarter were critical. That set our offense up in that quarter. I thought another big play was the interception we had. You stymie energy and emotion. And then the long touchdown pass was a kicker for them. After that, I told them defensively, we just can't give them a quick score right now. The only way you can really change the energy is another quick score. So we made some calls defensively that would make them go 10 plays. And now they were into the wind too."
The balanced Wheaton offense amassed 406 yards of total offense, with 221 passing yards and 185 rushing yards. Coe had 344 yards of offense, with 268 passing yards and 76 rushing yards.
Roberts completed 18 of his 24 passing attempts for 221 yards, with two touchdown tosses. The sophomore also ran for 52 yards on 13 carries. After the game, Roberts said, "Our motto this year is; finish strong. Even though we were down, as a quarterback you have to have a short term memory. Being able to come back and do a little better. Our line was doing great and making plays." When asked if he had planned on running the ball as much as he did today, he stated, "I didn't know what to expect. I know we were coming into the game looking to run the ball. We put it on the offensive line to be physical with them. It just happened to work out that we could do that."
Skogen carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards, with one touchdown. Ellis caught five passes for 99 yards, with two touchdown receptions. Ellis said of his 46-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, "It's easy when you have a quarterback like Jordan throwing to you. We were just setting them up all game with the run and we called a double move. So I just acted like I was blocking the guy and he bit on it. So I was able to just squeeze by him and Jordan just threw a perfect pass out there and I was able to haul it in."
Wheaton linebacker Richard Jacobson recorded seven total tackles, with a fumble recovery. Bryan McBroom and Jordan Chapman each made six total tackles. Defensive end Robert Ramsay made five tackles, including a 15-yard quarterback sack to his credit and three quarterback hurries.
Boyle led the Coe offense with 22-for-39 passing for 268 yards and one touchdown pass. The quarterback also rushed for a pair of touchdowns, as he ran for 31 yards on 10 carries. Kuehner caught nine passes for 101 yards, with one touchdown catch. Brendan Leiran ran for 46 yards on nine carries.
Ben Carr led the Coe defense, with 16 total tackles. Connor Worthington recorded 13 tackles, with two tackles for lost yardage (-4 yards). Nate Clear made 10 tackles for the Kohawks, with two tackles for loss (-19 yards).