Wabash College's Little Giants weren't about to lose to Washington University for the second straight year. The Little Giants dominated the Bears on defense and claimed a 24-3 win to improve to 5-0.
Washington knocked Wabash off last year and may have cost the Little Giants a playoff spot. Was last year's loss a motivator or not?
"Coach Raeburn reiterated that throughout the week," said receiver Jonathan Horn trying to downplay any revenge factor. "I know it was in the back of everybody's mind that we were not going to lose. And they're not going to keep us from the playoffs two years in a row."
Having CJ Gum back in the lineup was a big boost. Gum was as blunt with the question about last year's loss as he was with WashU ball carriers. "Oh yea, we talked about it all week. That's what fed the fire to come out and play hard."
Gum had a big impact with 13 tackles and 3.5 of those for loss.
"It's great to get him back," Coach Erik Raeburn said. "I wasn't sure how strong that knee was or whether he would be back to his old ways. I'm sure he's in a lot of pain but it didn't show in his play, that's for sure."
Gum said the knee was just fine, laughed and added, "but don't ask tomorrow."
The fifth-year senior will have a week to rest before he and the 12th-ranked Little Giants travel Saturday to Oberlin.
Special teams and Wes Chamblee were the difference in the first half. The teams traded possessions before a 38-yard Wabash drive that culminated by an Ian MacDougall booming 41-yard field goal. A quick three-and-out for Washington ended badly with their punt.
But that can happen when kicking to Chamblee. The fifth –year senior took the Bear punt at his own 33-yard line, evaded what looked like a sure tackle along the sideline and raced 67 yards for the Little Giants, 10-0.
Washington got its only points of the game on a 33-yard Eric Chalifour field goal just before half, 10-3.
The Little Giants scored in each of the final two quarters to pull away. Horn made a beautiful catch of an 18-yard Chase Beltonpass midway in the third period, 17-3. Then the Little Giants took all suspense out of the contest with a nice fourth quarter drive. Wabash drove the ball 76 yards in 11 plays. Belton hit horn for 38 and 16 yards. Tyler Holmes rushed for 12 yards. Belton punched the ball in from the one to close out the scoring, 24-3.
Wes Chamblee returns a punt 67 yards for a touchdown.
"We started off slow today, me included, and I had a fumble I definitely shouldn't have had," Horn said. "We made a few changes at halftime and we came out fine. It was a good win for us. They're a tough team. Obviously, they beat us last year and we had a chip on our shoulder. I think everyone is pretty happy whether it's good, bad or ugly - we got the win today."
Horn finished with 119 yards on seven catches. Belton hit on 18-of-30 passes for a touchdown and 199 yards. Vann Hunt ran for 59 yards with Holmes adding 28.
The kicking game played a big role Saturday. Besides MacDougall's field goal, he also kicked off five times for a 66-yard average. Punter Cameron Sobleski also had a strong day with five punts for a 47.4 yard average.
"Ian did a great job," Raeburn praised. "He's been hurting, nursing a hip flexor issue. His kickoffs were fantastic and that really helped us in field position. And to hit the field goal to start the game was great. That would have been a momentum killer had we got down there and not gotten any points.
"Cameron really came through particularly in first half when we were backed up deep. He came through with some really deep punts and that helped our defense with some valuable field position."
Nate Scola accounted for 8 tackles behind Gum's 13. Kyle Najar, Pat Clegg, and Jorge Diaz-Aguilar had seven stops apiece. Diaz-Aguilar had two sacks.
Gum was just happy to be playing again after missing two weeks.
"They're obviously a good team," he said. They're 2-2 but I think they're a lot better than that. It feels great to be back and getting a good win. Only giving up three points against a good team, you have to be happy with that."