/seasons/2011/contrib/20111105hk1fpv

Wabash Claims NCAC Title With Win Over Wittenberg

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12-66-238. Numbers seldom tell the story of any athletic contest and often trivialize meaningful results. Wabash dominated Wittenberg Saturday with physical defense and a punishing run attack for a 28-17 championship win. The Little Giants will be in the NCAA playoffs in two weeks and are the 2011 NCAC Conference Champions.

Those numbers play out to 12 rushing first downs, 66 carries, and 238 rushing yards.

"They're really good on defense, particularly in the secondary," Coach Erik Raeburn said. "We knew we'd have to run the football to have a chance. We ran a lot better in the first half than even I thought we could.

"But the defense was the big key. I've got tremendous respect for how good their quarterback and receivers are. To hold them to 10 points, with the screw-ups coming on our special teams for their last score, that was an impressive defensive performance by our guys."

The Little Giant defense was stellar against Witt quarterback Ben Zoeller holding him to 15-of-27 passing for 146 yards. They picked off one and sacked him four times. But the defense blitzed, blitzed and blitzed some more putting a body on Zoeller nearly every throw.

"Last year he torched us," Raeburn said. "But just like every quarterback, when you get hit every time it's hard to make accurate throws."

The rushing numbers were staggering. Wabash's 238 yards looked all the more glaring beside the Tigers' 10 net yards.

"Running the ball is always the key," said junior offensive lineman Weston Kitley. "If you can control the line of scrimmage, like everybody says, you can control the game. They're an all-around great team. Every year they're a great team. We knew we had to come out with a lot more intensity than we have the last 4-5 weeks. We came out ready to play. We had too many mental errors again today but they did a lot of confusing things. We just did a good job of picking most of it up."

Tyler Holmes had a career day with 111 yards on 19 rushes. Vann Hunt added 85 on 22 carries. Chase Belton had 88 yards on 20 carries.

The defense set the Little Giants up for their first score when C.J. Gum delivered a crushing blow to Zoeller that caused an errant pass picked off by freshman Cody Brush. Wabash kept the ball on the ground capped by Belton's one-yard plunge, 7-0. The Little Giants got their second score of the game on a five-rush-play drive capped by Belton's four-yard fun, 14-0.

On the next series the defense forced a three-and-out and Wabash was on the run again. Five rushing plays moved the ball to the Witt 21. Belton found a streaking Wes Chamblee crossing through the end zone for a 21-0 halftime edge.

Witt put two scores up in the third quarter on Corey Weber's five-yard run and Sean Williams' 42-yard field goal.

The Little Giants got their first wrapped around the NCAC championship trophy with seven minutes to play. The defense forced two incomplete passes then smothered Zoeller for a 12-yard sack. Trey LaValley had to punt from near his goal line. Kyle Najar flew in from a corner, blocked the punt which was picked up in the end zone by Hildebrand for a touchdown.

"I knew I had an edge on that right tackle I'd blocked before," Najar said. "I was setting him up because I was calling it out like I was blocking him. I just got past him and whacked it. I saw the ball bounced and Sean was there to pick it up. I knew I was going to block it for some reason."

Hildebrand knew he was in the right place at the right time. "We called an all-out punt block," he explained. "I was on outside contain and Kyle made a great play to get the block. It was a gift from God when the ball bounced right to me."

Witt picked up a late score with three minutes to play when a Little Giant snap sailed way over the head of the Wabash punter. The ball was picked up by Mike McKee and returned 25 yards to cap the scoring, 28-17.

Wabash wins the NCAC championship outright for the first time since 2008 and earns the league's automatic berth for the NCAA Championships. The unbeaten Little Giants 9-0 travel to DePauw Saturday for 118th battle for the Monon Bell. The Tigers are 4-4 after Saturday's win over Albion.

Wittenberg, 7-2, must face Wooster to close its season.

"To win a conference championship, we're going to the playoffs, those are all great things," Raeburn said. We'll enjoy it tonight and then we have to get ready for the Bell Game."

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
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at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Union 17, at Curry 14
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Shenandoah at Randolph-Macon
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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