WESTERVILLE, Ohio—The Heidelberg University football team rushed for 303 yards on 60 attempts—both season-highs—and scored 24 points off turnovers as the Student Princes beat Otterbein University this afternoon, 41-20, in an Ohio Athletic Conference game at Memorial Stadium in Westerville, Ohio in the 20th edition of the Rhine River Classic.
With the win, the Berg improves to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the OAC and was the first Student Prince victory over Heidelberg since 2002. The loss drops the Cardinals to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the OAC.
Sophomore second-team All-OAC running back Germany Woods (Cleveland/Lakewood St. Edward) rushed for a game-high 101 yards on 24 carries and was backed by junior running back Brad Jones' (Lorain/Southview) 71 yards on 11 attempts and sophomore running back Cartel Brooks' (Kokomo, Ind./Galion) 43 yards on just seven rushes. The ground effort was Woods' second 100-yard rushing effort of the season.
"The story was simply run the rock," said fifth-year head coach Mike Hallett, who earned his first victory against Otterbein since coming to Heidelberg prior to the 2007 season. "Germany, Brad, Cartel…they have a variety of roles and they each stepped up for big days. Credit the offensive line, though. [It] set us up with a lot of third-and-shorts and really made my job as a play caller easy."
The Berg scored on seven of its 13 drives—including on four attempts inside the red zone—and punted just two times, while six takeaways, a 10-of-19 third down conversion rate and a 34:41 time of possession advantage keyed the win.
The Student Princes led, 7-0, after the first quarter but had four scoring drives, including three touchdowns, to race out to a 31-7 lead by halftime.
Freshman quarterback Michael Mees (North Ridgeville) completed passes to 10 different receivers, and was 14-of-25 passing for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Mees now has eight TD passes over his first three games as a collegian.
"Today was as good of a day as I've had here," added Hallett. "This was a signature win, as our kids have shown marked improvement as the season has matured."
On Otterbein's first possession, sophomore linebacker Dawson Gore (Bellevue) recovered a fumble—one of six Cardinal turnovers for the day—to give Heidelberg the ball at its own 25-yard line. Mees promptly directed an eight-play, 75-yard drive in just 3:39, ending when he found freshman running back Anthony Kelly (Cuyahoga Falls/Woodbrigde) for a 15-yard TD pass—his first career score—at the 6:23 mark. Junior placekicker Dan Kilger's (Novi, Mich./Novi) point-after-touchdown was good. Woods carried a large portion of the load, tallying 35 yards on five rushes during the drive, while 'Berg did not face a third down.
Following an Otterbein punt by Aaron Kingcade that was downed at the Berg's own six-yard line, Jones anchored a drive that ended 12 plays, 94 yards and 4:32 later when he scored on a 23-yard run at the 14:54 mark of the second quarter. Kilger's PAT increased the Student Prince advantage to 14-0.
Rocco Pentello cut the lead to 14-7 when he scored on a four-yard run with 9:06 on the clock and Aaric Milligan's extra point was good.
'Berg scored on its next three possessions, tallying 17 points in less than five minutes going into the break. Facing a third down-and-one from his own 14-yard line, a Pentello fumble recovered by freshman linebacker Andy Kujawa (Maumee/Anthony Wayne) set up a Kilger 29-yard field goal with 3:41 left to play in the first half. The field goal was the first of Kilger's career.
It was then Brooks turn in the back field. Brooks ran the ball on the first five plays of Heidelberg's next drive, picking up 33 yards to move the Student Princes past midfield with the clock just under one minute. Mees found freshman wide receiver Troy Rice (Youngstown/Raven) for a 41-yard TD pass to end the eight-play, 89-yard drive that took just 1:47. Kilger's attempt was good to make the score 24-7.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, senior defensive back and team captain Tony Gordon (Euclid) intercepted Austin Schlosser's pass and returned it 37 yards to the Otterbein six. Two incompletions set up a third-and-goal, but with little time on the clock, the field goal unit lineup for what appeared to be a 23-yard attempt. Hallett's call paid dividends, as sophomore holder Asher Rumple (Edison/Marion Harding) took the snap and rolled out of the pocket to find junior defensive lineman Andy Lovins (Clinton Township, Mich./Lakeshore) for a touchdown as time expired. Kilger's extra point sent the Student Princes into the locker room with a 24-point lead.
In the third quarter, Heidelberg extended its lead to 38-7 when sophomore wide receiver CJ Powell (Detroit, Mich./Bishop Foley) caught a 41-yard TD pass from Mees with 3:53 left in the period, his third TD reception of the season. Mees was the key to the score, completing a pass on third-and-four to sustain the drive, then finding Powell on a third-and-18. Kilger's extra point set up 'Berg with a 38-7 lead.
Schlosser cut the lead to 41-13 when he plunged into the endzone from one yard out with eight seconds left, but Milligan's kick failed.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kilger added an insurance field goal to put Heidelberg up, 41-13, with a 30-yard boot that capped an eight-play, 47-yard drive.
On the Cardinals' ensuing drive, Schlosser marched Otterbein 41 yards to the Student Prince 20, but a key interception by junior defensive back Tyler Levanduski (Elyria/Amherst Steele) thwarted the scoring threat.
Defensively, Gore led all Student Princes with nine tackles, while junior linebacker Craig Sykes (Centerburg) notched seven stops of his own, including a half tackle for loss. Sophomore defensive back Chase Bauer (Amelia/McNicholas), Levanduski, and Gordon each had interceptions. Bauer also recovered a fumble.
The win moves Hallett into sole possession of sixth place on the school's all-time head coaching win list with 19.
Heidelberg returns to Tiffin for its annual Homecoming game Saturday, Oct. 1 against Capital University. Kickoff from Mayer Field is slated for 2 p.m. Earlier today, the Crusaders defeated Baldwin-Wallace College, 14-11. Live stats for that game will be available at the following URL: http://www.heidelberg.edu/statcrew/fb/xlive.htm.