Wabash's Little Giants hope a dominating third quarter Saturday sets the tone for the final three regular season games. The 11th-ranked Little Giants controlled the second half against Denison Saturday for a 39-13 NCAC win.
Wabash (7-0, 4-0) broke from an 11-6 halftime lead over the Big Red with stifling defense and three third quarter touchdowns.
"We know the next three games are probably the most important games for us," said defensive backAustin Hodges '13. "You want to think every week is the most important but in the back of everybody's mind you think of Wittenberg, Allegheny, and about the Bell game of course. But we had to take care of this week though for next week to even matter."
An odd first half set the stage for the third quarter dominance. Chase Belton scored on a 33 yard run before Denison back Sam Fioroni tied things up at 6-all. The emotional turning point of the first half came on the extra-point attempt which was blocked and then returned the distance by Luke Zinsmaster for two points.
Ian MacDougall added a 28-yard field goal for 11-6 halftime lead after earlier problems on the snaps for a field goal attempt and extra point.
"Offensively in first half we weren't executing down in the red zone and obviously we had some kicking issues," Coach Erik Raeburn said. "We definitely weren't playing well on first down. They were able to drive the ball on us a couple of times but we toughened up down in red zone and did a good job."
Then the offensive came alive in the third quarter. Wes Chamblee caught a 19-yard Belton pass then Belton added a 42 yard run. James Krause closed out the quarter with a 10-yard touchdown catch, 32-6.
The defense also turned things up a notch holding the Big Red to 38 yards of total offense in the third.
"I thought we came out after halftime and played really well offensively," Raeburn said. "We dialed in and executed. Defensively, we were definitely much better on first downs and kept them in third and long most of that third quarter. We were able to get off the field with several three and outs. I thought we took control of the game there in the third."
Freshman Cody Buresh led the Little Giants with 13 tackles. Austin Hodges and freshman AJ Akinribade each added seven stops. Pat Clegg and CJ Gum had six stops each.
Austin Hodges trips up a ball carrier.
"We had to be more aggressive on the line and stop that run game they had in the first half," Hodges said. "We sort of had our backs against the wall in a real close game so we had to make a statement."
Wabash got another score early in the fourth on an odd Denison punt. Having to kick from his own end zone, Matt Ring had a punt partially blocked for a negative 8 yards giving Wabash the ball at its own 3-yard line. It took just two plays for backup quarterback Tyler Burke to score, 39-6.
Denison (3-5) got a touchdown with just over a minute to play against Wabash's second-line defense on a Colin Morris 2-yard run.
Belton had a huge game for Wabash. The junior quarterback rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns. He threw for two more touchdowns on 9-of-17 passes for 210 yards.
Saturday's game was satisfying after a sub-par team offensive performance at Oberlin a week ago. "Last week the defense played great, special teams played great and the offense didn't come through. A lot of times this year have been kind of like that. As a team the offensive players came together and we knew we had to get the show rolling. It's game 7 and we're getting down to the nitty gritty."
Vann Hunt added 59 yards rushing on 16 carries. The Little Giants totaled 244 yards carrying the ball. Wes Chamblee had three catches for 109 yards. Jonathan Horn had 4 catches for 63 yards. James Kraus caught two and a touchdown. Sean Hildebrand had a catch for 38 yards to open the second half.
Denison's standout running back Fioroni had a good first half with 50 yards but was shut down in the second half finishing with 16 carries for 53 yards.
Max Paulus hit on 21-of-23 passes for 154 yards. He was sacked three times.
Wabash will make its longest road trip of the year Saturday travelling to Allegheny.