The Wittenberg Tigers ran their regular season winning streak to 25 in a row with a 41-19 victory over Oberlin.
Wittenberg, ranked 15th by the American Football Coaches Association and 16th by d3football.com, improved to 5-0 at the midway point of the 2011 season. The Yeomen dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the NCAC.
More importantly, the win over Oberlin, which hasn't defeated Wittenberg since 1954, moved the Tigers to 3-0 in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC). The Tigers have now won 16 conference games in a row — putting them more than halfway to their NCAC record of 31 straight between 1997 and 2002 — and 17 straight home games.
Big plays on both sides of the ball were key for the Tigers on an unseasonably cold, blustery afternoon. The defense bent on several occasions but came up with a season-high five turnovers to keep a potent Oberlin offense largely under wraps. Offensively, eight plays covering 20 yards or more in the game were key to overcoming a slow start that led to a slim 14-7 halftime advantage.
Wittenberg took a 14-0 lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by senior Conner Warye (Maineville, Ohio/Kings) in the first quarter and a 30-yard touchdown pass from senior Ben Zoeller (Louisville, Ky./St. Xavier) to senior Josh McKee (New Carlisle, Ohio/Tecumseh) in the second quarter. The hook-up between Zoeller and McKee came on fourth down from the 30-yard-line after the Tigers lost 25 yards due to penalties.
Oberlin rallied for a touchdown to make it a seven-point difference at halftime, but the Tigers built the lead back to 11 points in the third quarter. The scoring started with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Zoeller to senior Corey Weber (Pataskala, Ohio/Watkins Memorial), followed by an Oberlin score and an 18-yard field goal by junior Sean Williams (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield).
The Tigers broke the game open in the fourth frame, starting with a bit of trickery as Warye hauled in a 21-yard pass from McKee. After Oberlin scored, Weber found the end zone from 13 yards out and Williams capped the scoring with his second field goal of the day, giving him a perfect 8-for-8 on the season.
Zoeller finished 17-of-29 for 296 yards on the day, and the tailback tandem of Warye and Weber combined for their best day of the season with a combined 113 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving. Senior Michael Cooper (Springfield, Ohio/South) led with seven catches for 129 yards, while junior Garth Gilbert (Medway, Ohio/Tecumseh) added a career-best four receptions for 66 yards.
Wittenberg finished with 450 yards offensively, compared to 229 for the Yeomen. The key for the Tiger defense was a whopping 50 yards in tackles for loss, including three sacks. Sophomore Josh Montgomery (Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg) led in that area with two of the Tigers' three sacks.
Senior linebacker Zach Hurtt (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands) reached double figures in tackles for the fifth straight game, leading the Tigers with 10, matching the career-best total turned in by junior defensive tackle Cory Cosby (Canal Winchester, Ohio/Pickerington North). Also of note was the play of sophomore safety Mark Swope (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn), who made nine tackles, including 1.5 for a loss of eight yards, intercepted a pass, broke up another pass and was credited with the other sack.