Crusaders Host Muskingum as Season Enters Final Stretch

Defensive lineman Gene Rucker had 1.5 sacks at Otterbein last Saturday. (Jeff Mills photo).
Defensive lineman Gene Rucker had 1.5 sacks at Otterbein last Saturday. (Jeff Mills photo).


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The Capital University football team begins a two-game home stand Saturday against Muskingum in an Ohio Athletic Conference match-up set for 1:30 p.m. at Bernlohr Stadium.


The Muskies own a 36-24-1 advantage in the all-time series. Muskingum defeated Capital 27-6 back in 1925, when the teams met for the first time ever.


The Crusaders saw their 11-game winning streak against the Muskies snapped last season, when Muskingum knocked off Capital 13-6 in overtime in New Concord, Ohio. The Crusaders hadn't lost to the Muskies since 2000 entering that contest.


Last Saturday, Capital (1-7 overall, 1-6 OAC) drove into Otterbein territory with just under a minute to play and had a fourth-and-1 at the 35-yard line. Freshman b-back Brent Walton's run up the middle was stopped just inches shy of the first down, and the team came up just short, 19-14, at its cross-town rival.


Senior slot back Alex Coleman (Columbus, Ohio) paced a balanced Crusader rushing attack with 12 carries for 185 yards, good for a clip of 15.4 yards per carry, and a 65-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Walton added 20 carries for 88 yards and a score for Capital, which rushed for 296 yards in the affair.


The Crusaders held the Cardinals to just 44 yards rushing, but allowed 315 yards through the air while posting just 32 passing yards on the other side of the ball. Otterbein controlled time of possession, holding the ball for more than 35 minutes.


"It was a very gut-wrenching loss," Capital coach Craig Candeto said. "No one loss is worse than another, but when you get that close to your rival, I think our guys took it hard.


"It's always a risk when you lose several games in a row toward the end of the season because guys pack it in and stop caring for the rest of the season. Our guys have not done that, and I'm proud of them for that. I was proud of the effort on Saturday, we just came up a few plays short."


Freshman linebacker Jordan Blair (Lebanon, Ohio) enjoyed a career day, making 10 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, to lead the defense. Capital posted four sacks in the contest, led by junior defensive lineman Gene Rucker (Marion, Ohio), who had 1.5.


Senior defensive back Domenic Hebebrand (Hinckley, Ohio), junior linebacker TJ Langermeier (West Jefferson, Ohio) and junior defensive back Anthony Cicione (Akron, Ohio) contributed with seven tackles apiece.


"I thought the defense fought hard," Candeto said. "They bowed their necks when they needed to and gave us a chance to win the game, which is all you can ask for."


Muskingum (1-7, 1-6) also seeks its second win of the year following a 49-7 setback at home against Ohio Northern. The Muskies held advantages in total offense (410 yards to 348), time of possession (35:33) and first downs (23), but had trouble converting on third down (5-of-16) and committed five turnovers in the contest.


Running back Wes Ratalczak posted Muskingum's lone touchdown, rumbling in from 30 yards out just over midway through the fourth quarter to put the team on the board. Wide receiver James Washington led the Muskies' offense with nine receptions for 105 yards to break the school's career receiving yards record. Darell Jones and Zach Berry led the defense with eight tackles apiece.


Muskingum is led on offense by sophomore quarterback Cody Williams, senior running back Shane Dotson and Washington. Williams has passed for 693 yards, three touchdowns and five interceptions in 2013, while Dotson has 353 yards rushing and a touchdown entering Saturday's game. Washington leads the team with 34 receptions for 526 yards and three scores.


Junior linebacker Damond Goggins leads the Muskies with 78, while freshman defensive back Tyler Lancaster has a team-best three interceptions. Jones has 43 tackles and eight passes broken up.


Muskingum is tied for eighth in the league with Capital in scoring offense (14.0 points per game) and is seventh in scoring defense (32.5 ppg). The Muskies rank second in the OAC in time of possession (32:59 per game) and are allowing just 3.7 yards per rush and 135.6 rushing yards per game.


"Muskingum will be ready to play," Candeto said. "They are well-coached and have a lot of athletes on both sides of the football.  I think their quarterback is a pretty good player – he's athletic and big – and on defense, they run around very well."


Both Capital and Muskingum seek their second win of the season on Saturday.


"We need to be able to possess the ball and take it away from them. The time of possession battle really hurt us last week," Candeto said. "They're just as hungry as we are to get a win."