ELMHURST, Ill. - The Elmhurst College football team turned away a second half rally and upset 20th-ranked Wheaton College 35-30 in front of a homecoming crowd at Langhorst Field.
Despite surrendering almost 600 yards of offense, the Elmhurst defense turned in several big plays in the second half to seal the victory. The Bluejays scored a touchdown on an interception return and stuffed the Thunder on fourth down inside the Elmhurst 10-yard line. Elmhurst's defense had to hold off one last drive in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
After falling behind 24-21 early in the third quarter, Elmhurst (5-1, 2-1 CCIW) scored 14 straight points to open up a 35-24 advantage and then turned away Wheaton (4-2, 2-1 CCIW) twice in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 21-10 at the half, Wheaton came out firing in the third quarter. Thunder QB Jordan Roberts hit Mark Hiben for a completion over midfield and Hibben shook a defender and managed to stay in bounds down the sideline as he raced into the end zone for a 60-yard score.
After an Elmhurst punt, Wheaton grabbed its first and only lead of the game as Roberts hit Hiben on a 27-yard strike to give the Thunder a 24-21 cushion.
The Bluejays answered back on their ensuing possession. Elmhurst drove 55-yards in nine plays to go back on top. Joe Furco capped the scoring drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Vince Gabrys. The touchdown gave the Bluejays a 28-24 advantage with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
Elmhurst's defense came up big again on Wheaton's next drive. Wayne Tuckson picked off a Roberts pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown to put the Bluejays on top 35-24.
Wheaton responded immediately, driving 75 yards and scoring early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run from Peter Jarret. Trailing by five, the Thunder elected to go for two, but Roberts' pass fell incomplete.
After an Elmhurst punt, Wheaton went to work on offense, driving inside the red zone to the Elmhurst 12-yard line. The Thunder pushed the ball down to the Elmhurst three yard line and faced a fourth-and-one. Jarret was hit in the backfield by Brian Bonds and Tuckson dropped the Thunder running back for a loss of four, giving the ball back to the Bluejays.
Taking over with just less than five minutes on the clock, Elmhurst went to work on the ground, picking up a pair of first downs and running time off the clock. Wheaton was able to stop the Bluejays on a third down attempt near midfield with 1:32 to play, but Furco pinned the Thunder inside their own 10-yard line with a 48-yard punt.
Starting with just 1:37 left on the clock, Wheaton drove down to the Elmhurst 40-yard line with just 22 seconds left on the clock. Jamall Lane made a diving break-up of a deep pass to Cook on second down. Facing a third-and-six with just 15 seconds left, the Thunder were flagged for clipping, moving the ball back to the Wheaton 45-yard line. Roberts made a long completion to Cook down to the Elmhurst 12-yard line, but Cook was flagged for offensive pass interference. Since time had expired on the play, the Bluejays declined the penalty to end the contest.
While Wheaton piled up yardage in the second half, Elmhurst's offense was clicking in the first half as the Bluejays opened up a 21-10 lead at halftime. Elmhurst struck first grabbing a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter by driving 96 yards in just seven plays. Scottie Williams capped the scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown run to put the Bluejays on top 7-0.
Wheaton evened the score on its ensuing possession as Charlie Velling raced untouched down the middle of the field for a 45-yard touchdown run.
The Bluejays responded with a seven-play, 63-yard scoring drive capped by a nine-yard touchdown run by Williams.
Wheaton pulled to within four points on a 32-yard Sam Cote field goal early in the third and the Thunder were moving the ball on offense late in the half when the Bluejays' defense came up with a big play. Elmhurst's Mark Evangelist stripped Wheaton receiver Morgan Cook after a catch. Stephen Ritter scooped up the loose ball and raced 45 yards down the sideline to give Elmhurst the ball at the Wheaton 31-yard line. Four plays later, Josh Williams scored on a nine-yard touchdown run to give the Bluejays a 21-10 lead at the half.
Elmhurst finished the contest with 380 yards of total offense, but just 114 of those came in the second half. Elmhurst rushed for 233 yards and passed for 147 yards.
After totaling only 209 yards of offense in the first half, Wheaton exploded in the second half, piling up 387 yards, including 281 yards through the air. The Thunder finished with 596 yards of total offense, rushing for 263 and passing for 333.
Scottie Williams paced Elmhurst's ground attack, rushing 31 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Furco finished 8-of-10 through the air for 179 yards and a touchdown. Chase Hamby caught three passes for 61 yards.
Wheaton finished with a pair of 100-yard rushers in the game. Velling totaled 112 yards o 11 carries while Jarrett finished with 103 yards on 18 touches. Roberts finished 17-of-30 through the air for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hiben hauled in eight passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Tuckson led the Bluejays' defense in the win, totaling 12 tackles (seven solo), including the huge tackle for loss on fourth down. He also had the interception return for 57 yards. George DeMaria added nine tackles and broke up two passes while Mark Evangelista and Stephen Ritter finished with eight stops apiece.
Garrett Cook led Wheaton's defense with 13 tackles. Wheaton entered the game averaging more than 10 tackles for loss per game, but finished with just one.
Elmhurst travels to Millikin University next Saturday (October 20).