Brandon James picked off two passes, returning the second 17 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as The College of Wooster took a 24-14 lead, which held up as the final score, as the Fighting Scots won at Kenyon College in North Coast Athletic Conference action Saturday afternoon in Gambier, Ohio.
The decisive interception marked James's team-leading fifth of the season and the 10th of his career – just the 12th in school history to reach double figures in that category – but it was his run back that may be remembered most from his milestone pick. James read the wide receiver screen pass, caught the ball, at the 17-yard line, and made his way through heavy traffic, breaking a couple of tackles before eventually getting into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
That gave Wooster (6-3, 6-2 NCAC), which clinched its first winning season since 2008 with the victory, a 10-point advantage for the second time, and it held up.
On Kenyon's (4-5, 4-4 NCAC) next two offensive series, the Scots' defense forced three-and-outs, which included a 10-yard sack by Matt Osolinski on the second.
The Lords made a couple of first downs on their next possession, then Wooster stiffened again, forcing a turnover on downs with 3:37 remaining to just about seal the outcome.
Neither offense generated much of a scoring threat during windy conditions until late in the first half. All of the sudden, during a six-play swing, both accounted for long running touchdowns, with the Scots getting on the board first via Sean Hackel's 33-yard jaunt to the end zone for a two-play, 40-yard possession and then Kenyon's Brandon January getting loose for a 41-yard score to complete a four-play, 75-yard drive.
The scoring continued when Wooster moved into the Lords' territory late in the half and eventually sent out Tyler Gerwig, who booted through a career-long 43-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
Both offenses started the second half moving the ball, however, both were ultimately turned away inside the red zone, with Tyson Vogel coming down with an interception at the 17.
That was the start of a sequence of three turnovers over four plays, with James making his first interception of the day at the Kenyon 15.
The Scots turned that into a touchdown drive, with the key play being a fake punt. On 4th-and-8 from the Wooster 41, the Wooster coaching staff rolled the dice as James, the up man on the punt team, took the snap and executed a shovel pass to Osolinski coming across the line from left-to-right, with Osolinski taking it up the sideline for 30 yards. Six plays later, Hackel found a hole for a five-yard touchdown and 17-7 cushion late in the third quarter.
The two-possession lead only lasted 17 seconds, though, as the Lords returned the ball past midfield and quarterback Jake Bates connected with Blake Calcei for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
The teams traded a series of punts before James came up with the key play of the game.
The Scots have now outgained their opponent in all six wins, this time a narrow a 371-362. The difference in the game, though was turnover margin. James and Vogel combined for four interceptions, and Wooster only gave it away once.
Individually, the Lords held quarterback Richard Barnes in check as he was 19-of-33 for 198 yards while being sacked six times. Hackel stepped up with a career-high 153 rushing yards on 29 attempts.
Bates cracked the 200-yard passing mark, completing 16-of-34 for 209, and January reached 100 rushing, toting the ball 20 times for 112 stripes.
In addition to his two interceptions, James had a pass breakup and 1.5 tackles for loss among his nine tackles.
Next Saturday, the Scots will attempt to close out the 2013 season on a four-game winning streak when they host Ohio Wesleyan University (5-4, 4-4 NCAC) at 1 p.m.