Jake Kennedy, ‘19, lines up under center for the final play of the football game; second-down, 10 yards to go. The ball is snapped and the pass is thrown, only to be intercepted at the two-yard line. That’s it, the game is over, Wabash upsets Wittenberg 28-21.
In their 22nd meeting, the Little Giants toppled the Tigers at home on Saturday, Oct. 27, in an overtime game that came down to the wire. The Tigers faltered on Senior Day, despite leading the game in almost every statistical category.
Wittenberg’s last regular season loss was in 2016 to Denison. The Little Giants squashed a 21-game regular-season win streak and a 19-game win streak against conference opponents. A perfect season would have been the Tigers second consecutive, 21st in school history.
With two seconds left in the fourth quarter, Kennedy landed a perfect pass to Liam Duncan, ‘19, in the back of the end zone to tie up the game with the addition of the PAT from the foot of Adam Acquista, ‘19, sending the game into overtime.
The Tigers put the first score on the board after a 16 play, 84-yard drive taking over seven minutes off the clock. The home team was unable to score again in the first half, as the opposition found the end zone twice to lead by seven at halftime.
Wittenberg began their comeback in the fourth quarter running the same trick play they successfully made against DePauw the week before. Taking a direct snap, Sam Kayser, ‘21, tossed the ball off to Jeff Tiffner, ‘19, who launched the ball to wide-open Kennedy in the end zone.
Starting quarterback Kennedy was responsible for two touchdowns on Saturday, but also for throwing three interceptions. The six-foot-one senior threw 232 for yards on the afternoon, competing 28 of 49 passes.
The Tigers won the statistical game over the Little Giants, outpacing the visitors 25-17 in first downs, 241-208 in passing yardage, 132- 100 in rushing yardage and 49:26 to 25:34 in time of possession. Scoring proved to be the challenge for Wittenberg, as Wabash held the Tigers out of the end zone on eight of 12 drives. The visiting team forced six punts and snagged three interceptions.
Seniors left their final guaranteed home game saddened by the loss, but buoyed by their numbers. Tiffner turned out to be the explosive wideout for the afternoon, grabbing 10 passes for 58 yards. Thad Snodgrass, ‘19, came in clutch as an open receiver for Kennedy, snagging a 27-yard pass on second-and-17 and a 38-yard pass on third-and-12.
On the defensive squad, Terrance Crowe, ‘19, led the Tigers with 10 tackles. Michael Ford, ‘19, found himself with seven tackles to his name while Brandon Daniels, ‘19, tacked on an additional five. Kyle Dieringer, ‘19, and Donald Hefelfinger, ‘19, shared a one-yard tackle-for-loss.
The Tigers pack their bags for the next two weeks of conference action to close out the regular season against Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster. The two opponents sit seventh and fifth respectively in the NCAC standings, posing as rather easy opponents for the Tigers as they look ahead.
With a playoff berth on the line, Wittenberg must win the next two games to remain in contention to win out the conference after the loss to Wabash. The Little Giants sit with only one loss during the regular season to Denison, whom Wittenberg beat out in a four-overtime thriller a month ago.
Wabash still has their biggest opponent left on their schedule: DePauw. A Wabash loss in the 125th Monon Bell Classic would guarantee the Tigers holding onto the conference championship for the third consecutive year.
The Tigers, previously nationally ranked eighth, are still unsure if they will host the first round of the NCAA football playoffs if they land a bid in three weeks.