WESTERVILLE, Ohio – A rivalry was renewed and streaks were broken in a phenomenal showdown on the gridiron between Capital University and Otterbein University, Saturday afternoon. Behind an eye-stopping career performance by quarterback Thomas Wibbeler and a stout defensive stand on the Cardinals' final drive, the Purple and White spoiled Otterbein's Homecoming celebration with a 42-41 victory at Memorial Stadium.
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The win bumps Capital's record in conference to 3-0 and leaves them as one of three remaining unbeaten teams in OAC play. This marks the first time since 2009 the Crusaders have started a season 3-0, in conference.
Sophomore quarterback Thomas Wibbeler (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) had an eye-popping day after throwing for five touchdowns, a feat that has not been seen since Nick Alexander did so against Muskingum University in 2008. His final line popped off the page with 21 completions on 32 attempts, which was good for 351 yards. His performance also served as Capital's first 300-yard individual passing game since 2011.
Three of those touchdown passes went to freshman wide receiver David Barnett (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee). Barnett also caught a pair of passes for two-point conversions, one of those that lead to the eventual takeover of the Cardinals. He ended the day with 190 yards receiving on eight grabs.
Penalties were many in this foreseen chippy contest, but one stood out among the rest and turned the tide of the game. With less than seven minutes to go, Capital was forced to punt on a fourth-and-two situation. Capital's punt team struggled all day, and on this occasion the kick was blocked while they were deep in their own territory. However, before possession was established an Otterbein player attempted to bat the ball forward, resulting in a 10-yard penalty, thus giving Capital an automatic first down and possession of the ball.
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Two plays later, Wibbeler looked downfield and found his favorite target of the day, Barnett, open in the middle of the field. Barnett was bumped on his way to make the catch, but the freshman focused in and made a one-handed grab, regained his balance, and took it to the house 69 yards out for six points. That touchdown made it a 35-34 score in Otterbein's favor, and after the two-point conversion failed still kept Capital at a disadvantage.
Otterbein came back with a 43-yard touchdown scamper to retaliate, but Cardinals kicker Joe Sanfillipo missed the point after attempt wide left, keeping Capital in the game and down 41-34.
On the following drive, Wibbeler completed all three of his passes, all for first downs, leading to a big 30-yard touchdown pitch and catch to junior wide receiver Nick Waters (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson). Waters streaked up the Cap sideline and had a step on his man, made the grab and took it to the distance for six. Wibbeler went back to his reliable target, Barnett, and found the big man in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion. Capital regained the lead, 42-41, with 2:09 left on the clock.
Otterbein had one last chance to get into a position to score, but Capital's defense made it tough on the Cardinals. The Crusaders made stops and allowed zero yards on Otterbein's first three plays of the drive. An injury timeout gave Otterbein extra time to regroup and form a play that led to a first down, but senior defensive tackle Nick Wright (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) saved the day by causing a turnover that would end the game. Otterbein running back Christian Johnson went off tackle to the right, but Wright was there to make the stop and punched the ball loose while making the tackle. Sophomore Drew Seleague (Westerville, Ohio/Saint Francis DeSales) hopped on the rock to give Capital the ball back. From there, Capital took to the "victory formation" and ran the clock out, ending a four-year drought in this storied rivalry.
Up and down, the offense had a stellar day which was essential to keep pace with an Otterbein offense that totaled 41 points on 521 yards. Junior Cory Heeter (Circleville, Ohio/Logan Elm) carried the ball 20 times for 63 yards, and scored his seventh rushing touchdown of the season. Heeter continued his habit of scoring in short-yardage situations, scoring from one yard out.
In addition to Wibbeler and Barnett's career day, Waters finished with four catches and 72 yards, plus the touchdown grab. Junior tight end Trey Reese scored the first receiving touchdown of his career, a four-yard catch in the corner of the end zone which was made before being shoved out of bounds.
On the defensive side, Capital caused two fumbles and benefitted from a third Otterbein fumble, all of which the Crusaders jumped on to obtain possession. In addition to Wright's game-changing punchout, senior Tyler Conner (Grove City, Ohio/Grove City) also forced a fumble which was recovered by junior Derek Eibon. The third fumble recovery came at the hands of sophomore J.R. Garrigo (Miami, Fla.).
Leading the defense, statistically, was linebacker Kane Murray (Warren, Ohio/Warren G. Harding). The sophomore had 10 tackles, four of those solo. Junior Shawn Facione (Marion, Ohio / Harding) matched his fellow linebacker with 10 tackles, which also tied a career high. He added two pass breakups, as well.
Junior lineman Ben Heilman (Columbus, Ohio/Olentangy Orange) matched his career high with six tackles.
On the other side, Capital allowed its first 100-yard rushing effort to Otterbein quarterback Logan Stepp and Isaiah Richardson. Richmond finished with 112 rushing yards while Stepp put up 135 and two touchdowns. Stepp also threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
For the third straight week, Capital won the battle of turnovers and for the second time this season did not surrender the ball to its opponent, unwillingly.
Capital remains undefeated in OAC play, now pushing its record to 3-0. They are 3-1 overall heading into its own Homecoming game against Ohio Northern University (1-3, 1-2 OAC). ONU comes off of a 38-21 loss versus No. 1 University of Mount Union. Cap seeks its first 4-0 start in OAC play since the 2007 season, in which Capital advanced to the NCAA Playoffs.
Kickoff between the Polar Bears and Crusaders is set for 1:30 p.m. with the Homecoming celebration beginning that morning. More details on Homecoming will be provided at a later time.