Wittenberg did not need a single yard of offensive production to claim a 17-0 lead on the Hiram Terriers in Saturday’s non-conference matchup.
Senior Nick Gibson opened the scoring for the Tigers after the Terrier play callers went back to the well one too many times in calling another counter on the first possession of the game. The Tiger defense swarmed the backfield, and disrupted the Terrier hand-off. Gibson was able to sweep up the ball from the turf and dash to the Wittenberg end zone.
A possession later, Wittenberg lined up to punt, but Nick Eaton –the Hiram deep man- muffed the punt. As the Tiger coverage team hustled down the field, the ball bounced around, rattling around Hiram Terriers. It was senior linebacker Evan Killilea who landed on the ball in the end zone for the second touchdown of the day. After that, the Tigers never looked back, trouncing the Terriers 48-0, including converting a Terrier fumble to a field goal, despite a three and out.
The two early scores on the day were indicative of a growing theme this season. The Tiger defense forced seven turnovers on Saturday, including five fumbles and two interceptions. The interceptions came courtesy of junior Winston Thomas and Killilea. This was Thomas’ second of the year. Killilea also notched nine tackles, which tied with him for second on the team only behind Gibson’s 11. The defense held the Terrier spread option game to a mere 1.7 yards per rush on Saturday.
Despite a slow start, the offense did begin to find a rhythm. Junior quarterback Zach Jenkins was able to connect with receivers 11 times in just 14 attempts. Two of those attempts yielded points, including a perfectly placed ball which was caught by a leaping Zach Culvahouse, junior, in the face of tight man coverage on the sideline. The reception was Culvahouse’s fifth touchdown grab of the year, good for a team lead.
On the ground, sophomore Ryan Jordan amassed 77 yards, which all came in the second half, as the Tigers sought to let the seconds trickle off the clock as only time stood between them and their blowout victory. The first half saw junior running back tandem Sean Gary and junior Jimmy Dehnke. Dehnke also saw time in the slot this week, allowing formations that included both speedsters on the field at the same time.
The Tigers travel next week to take on the Denison Big Red. The Big Red come in 2-3 on the year, including NCAC losses to both DePauw and Hiram. They are led by senior quarterback Brandon Sklenar, who was under center in Wittenberg’s 38-20 victory over Denison last year.