The Capital University football team looks to remain unbeaten in Ohio Athletic Conference play Saturday as it takes on Ohio Northern at 2 p.m. at Bernlohr Stadium as a part of Homecoming Weekend at the institution.
The Crusaders (1-1 overall, 1-0 OAC) last defeated the Polar Bears in 2007, when the team reached the NCAA Division III Playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Ohio Northern (1-1, 0-1), one of the OAC's top programs over the last decade, owns a 34-24-1 record in the all-time series between the two teams. The Polar Bears won last year's meeting 28-14 in Ada, jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first half on the strength of 238 total yards in the period.
After a disappointing performance in a 20-0 loss in their season opener on Sept. 7 against Thomas More (Ky.), the Crusaders recovered in their conference opener last Saturday with a 42-13 triumph at Marietta, the first career victory for new head coach Craig Candeto.
Capital generated 579 yards of total offense, including 429 rushing yards, and outscored the Pioneers 35-3 in the second half. In his first career start under center, freshman quarterback Chase Longwell (Hilliard, Ohio) threw for 150 yards and two scores and rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown. Freshman b-back Brent Walton (Pickerington, Ohio) led a balanced running attack with 131 yards on just eight carries.
Longwell, who connected with senior wide receiver Jacob Batcho (Massillon, Ohio) and senior slot back Alex Coleman (Columbus, Ohio) on his touchdown passes, impressed the coaching staff with his poise and decision-making at a high-pressure, important offensive position.
"Chase is a guy who we can count on," Candeto said. "He's run the offense before … there are a lot of parallels to what he did in high school and what we do here. Over the past two weeks, he's gotten a lot better with his checks and understanding where we want to run the football."
Candeto also credited the offensive line for the team's near-record setting performance on the ground. The Crusaders finished under 100 yards shy of the school record of 510 yards, set against Kenyon in 1963.
"I thought we tried to get more defenders on the ground this week," Candeto said. "Our offensive line was getting to the second level and getting after the linebackers. They did a good job of being physical and got good movement inside … our b-backs together ran for over 200 yards."
Defensively, Capital surrendered over 300 yards of total offense but held Marietta to just three points after the half. Sophomore linebacker Bryant Bokovitz's second-quarter interception led to the Crusaders' first touchdown of the year, a 10-yard run around the left end by Coleman.
Candeto said the defense has survived through two games on a "bend-but-don't-break" character.
"We have to continue to become a better tackling football team," Candeto said. "There are times we're in the right position, and we have the play to be made, and we let the ball carrier get away.
"I do think we did a good job of limiting big plays … we forced Marietta's offense to drive down the field."
After a dominating 55-0 victory over Alfred (N.Y.) State in its season opener, Ohio Northern opened the league slate Saturday with a 55-27 setback at then-No. 12 Heidelberg. After taking a 3-0 advantage just a minute and a half into the contest, the Student Princes scored 27 unanswered points and took a commanding 34-6 halftime lead.
Ohio Northern held the ball for nearly 39 minutes during the game, but converted just 4-of-18 chances (22 percent) on third down and allowed 590 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Patrick Angle led the Polar Bears with 169 yards and a touchdown, while running back Justin Magazine rushed for 73 yards and a score. Wide receiver Matt Craven caught seven passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Cody Cox led the defense with nine tackles, while defensive back Zach Runzo posted an interception.
Ohio Northern, which qualified for the NCAA Playoffs in 2010 and has finished over .500 in all but one of coach Dean Paul's 10 seasons at the helm, is a team Candeto believes the Crusaders will need to beat in the team's effort to enter the top tier of the conference.
"Ohio Northern is a very well-coached football team, and a team that has a history of being competitive in the OAC," Candeto said. "They have a lot of good athletes on both sides of the ball."
As usual, execution on both sides of the ball will be crucial on Saturday, especially in an emotionally charged environment that comes with a Homecoming atmosphere.
"We have to get more turnovers than we give them, and make sure we're lined up correctly," Candeto said. "The other thing is adjusting … we have to be ready if (Ohio Northern) throws new wrinkles at us."