MARIETTA, Ohio – Saturday afternoon's game at Marietta College came down to the final play of the contest, but after both teams traded blows in a hard-fought battle at Don Drumm Stadium, the Pioneers outlasted the Capital University Crusaders by a final score of 27-21.
Marietta (3-6, 3-5 OAC) scored 13 unanswered points at the end of the game to take a 27-21 lead, and left 53 seconds left on the clock for Capital (4-5, 4-4 OAC) to attempt a comeback. The Crusaders began their drive on their own 31-yard line with all three timeouts remaining, and successfully drove into the red zone. Junior Connor McCloud (Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg) took to the field to mount the final drive and hit the trio of David Barnett, Tyler O'Keefe and Nick Waters to get to the Marietta 16-yard line. With 16 seconds remaining, McCloud took four chances to score through the air but each fell incomplete, the last just outside of the reach of Barnett.
Capital put up one touchdown in each of the first three quarters, but was unable to mark up the scoreboard in the fourth while Marietta grinded away at the Capital defense and put up 13 fourth-quarter points. Cap held the lead heading into the half, 14-7, and held that seven-point lead coming out of the third quarter. Marietta mounted two scoring drives in the fourth quarter that totaled 7:59 of time, each ending in a Nick O'Neal touchdown run.
While Marietta's Roger Walker managed to rush for over 100 yards for the sixth straight game in a row, the Capital defense did its job by causing a pair of turnovers, both by way of an interception. Senior Chuck English (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) continued his tear of great play with his second interception of the year, while adding four tackles. Junior safety Austin White (Hebron, Ohio/Lakewood) made an impactful interception just outside of the red zone to stop the Pioneers in their tracks in the fourth quarter.
Leading the defense with 12 tackles was junior linebacker Derek Eibon (Amherst, Ohio), followed by sophomore linebacker Kane Murray (Warren, Ohio) with 10. Sophomore LaShaun Sanders (Columbus, Ohio/St. Francis) finished with five tackles and a key forced fumble, which accounted for Capital's third caused turnover of the game.
Three of Marietta's four scoring drives scoring drives went for over 60 yards, and its first two were from 79 and 82 yards out, respectively. The Pioneers struck first when quarterback Darrien Fields ran the ball into the end zone from eight yards out.
It took a Marietta turnover to grant Capital the chance to tie the game up, but English's interception deep in Pioneer territory set up a Crusader touchdown on the very next play. Capital ran a double reverse to sophomore Eddie Preciado (Downey, Calif.), which he took to pay dirt from the 15-yard line to tie the game up.
Capital's go-ahead score came when McCloud and Preciado connected, this time through the air, on a 34-yard pass with 3:37 remaining in the second quarter. The touchdown capped off an 11-play, 98-yard drive that lasted 5:29. Capital was pinned at its two-yard line after making another key defensive stop following one of its X turnovers in the game. Junior Nick Iske tossed an interception, but two Marietta penalties plus Capital not allowing a first down conversion forced the punt that set up the scoring drive. Cap chipped away when back on offense with two key third down conversions by rushes from McCloud while on the path to a touchdown.
Fields tied the game on Marietta's first drive out of the half with a four-yard touchdown pass to Jared Deep on a first-and-goal opportunity from the four-yard line, ending a 13-play, 82-yard drive that spanned 5:03. They nearly took control of the game on their next possession, but Sanders forced Roger Walker to fumble the ball just outside the Cap 10-yard line, causing yet another turnover. Capital took advantage of that miscue, as well, scoring seven plays later on a 49-yard touchdown run by junior Nick Waters (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson). The score put Capital up 21-14, but marked the last time Capital held a lead in the game.
The two-system quarterback strategy netted 225 total yards between Iske and McCloud. McCloud put up 118 yards of passing and one touchdown on a 6-for-19 day. Iske did his damage on the ground, pounding out 51 yards on a team-high 18 carries.
Freshman running back Evin Butler (Dayton, Ohio/Dayton Christian) was Capital's leading rusher, posting a career-high 73 yards on 12 carries. Waters finished with 68 yards on five carries and one touchdown. He also added one catch for 22 yards. Standout freshman wideout David Barnett (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) made a team-best three catches for 49 yards.
The loss drops Capital to 4-5 overall on the season, and 4-4 in Ohio Athletic Conference play. Cap is set to wrap up its season at home when they host Heidelberg University on Saturday, Nov. 12. The teams will kick off at 1:30 p.m. on Purtmort Field at Bernlohr Stadium. It also marks Senior Day, where the team will recognize the achievements and careers of 12 individuals playing their final game in purple and white.