MEADVILLE, Pa. - Many a Wittenberg team has ventured to the campus of Allegheny College and seen its title hopes dashed. The 2012 Tiger football team made sure it didn't fall into the same trap, keeping its North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) title hopes alive with perhaps its most complete all-around game of the season in a 35-6 victory.
The Tigers beat Allegheny for the fourth straight time and the 15th time in 24 all-time meetings. The 29-point margin of victory was Wittenberg's largest in 13 games in Meadville, where the Gators had won three of the last five meetings between the two programs.
Wittenberg did it by rolling up 542 yards of total offense while displaying almost perfect symmetry, including 273 yards passing and 269 yards rushing. In improving to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the NCAC, Wittenberg scored in three of the four quarters and nearly pitched a shutout defensively before the Gators finally broke through for a touchdown with just 4:31 remaining in the game.
Allegheny fell to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the NCAC. The Tigers and Gators are two of four teams now tied for second place (the others being Wabash and Kenyon), one game behind surprising Ohio Wesleyan in the standings heading into the final three weeks of the regular season. Wittenberg does not play Ohio Wesleyan or Kenyon in 2012.
The Tigers got on the board first, converting their first drive of the game into four-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern). The drive covered just 51 yards thanks to the first collegiate interception for senior defensive end Jon Daniels (Springfield, Ohio/South).
Wittenberg pushed the lead out to 14 points by halftime with a 31-yard scoring strike from Florence to junior wide receiver Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont) in the second quarter. The Tigers broke the game open with three more scores in the third quarter, with Florence going 20 yards through the air to junior wide receiver Desi Kirkman (Lima, Ohio/Central Catholic) followed by short touchdown runs by freshman tailback Jimmy Dehnke (Canton, Ohio/Massillon Jackson) and junior tailback JaVanh Sanders (Las Vegas, Nev./Centennial).
Florence finished with 263 yards on 18-of-29 passing, and he also paced the running game with 12 carries for 99 yards. Dehnke added 17 carries for 77 yards, while Florence's favorite targets through the air were Cunningham and Kirkman with six receptions apiece, for 94 and 79 yards respectively.
Defensively, junior linebacker Kyle Sanning (Fairborn, Ohio/Tecumseh) led the way with nine tackles, including five solo stops. Junior linebacker Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon) added seven tackles, while senior cornerback Karlos Marshall (Springfield, Ohio/Springfield) and junior linebacker Evan Killilea (Columbus, Ohio/DeSales) finished with six tackles each. Two of Killilea's tackles were for loss.
The sprint to the finish continues next Saturday with a road trip to Denison for the final of three 2012 night games.