By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
WESTERVILLE, Ohio – When the Capital University and Otterbein University football teams get together, no matter the location, records go out the window and nothing is left out on the field. It never surprises coaches, players and fans that the game comes down to one final drive or play to determine a winner. Anyone that understands that fact was certainly not shocked, and everybody else thoroughly entertained, when the Crusaders and Cardinals took Saturday afternoon's battle down to the one-yard line for the game-deciding final play.
Capital, not known this season for a plethora of game-changing defensive plays, mustered up enough push, passion and power to stop Cardinals' quarterback from getting into the end zone on an attempted sneak up the middle. As the pile unfurled the clock continued to tick with Otterbein have no timeouts and no way of stopping it. With one final, huge defensive stop the Crusaders were crowned victorious, 23-19, and the celebration at Memorial Stadium began.
The entirety of the game was filled with dramatic moments and the fourth quarter of this classic rivalry served as the perfect final act. The lead switched hands twice in the final six minutes, which had fans on both sides loud and on their feet amidst a dreary, wet and cold October afternoon.
Neither team had scored in the fourth quarter and Capital was clinging to a 16-13 lead with 5:13 remaining. Otterbein forced Capital to punt and after obtaining possession scored on its first play of the ensuing drive. Dakota Smith found a hole and took it 45 yards for the touchdown to give Otterbein the lead, 19-16. However, recently promoted Cardinal placekicker David Hoyle missed the extra point, which would eventually prove costly to the hosts.
While Capital's aerial attack was slowed by the wet conditions the Crusaders' countering drive relief on the passing game to keep its hopes for victory alive. Capital was asked to convert two different fourth-and-four opportunities en route to the end zone. Capital quarterback Thomas Wibbeler (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) hit his most reliable target, Dartavious Stanford (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) over the middle for an eight yard gain to move the sticks the first time. After Wibbeler ran for 11 yards and put Capital into Otterbein territory, the Cardinals called a timeout just before the play clock expired to regroup the defense. Otterbein came out of the break and double teamed Stanford on the next fourth down try, but Wibbeler then went to another senior wide out, Connor McCloud (Reynoldsburg, Ohio/Reynoldsburg), to collect eight more yards and another fresh set of downs. On the very next play, Stanford got the mismatch the Crusaders were looking for and got the inside position to catch a 31-yard touchdown pass with under one minute remaining.
After hitting the PAT, Blake Middleton lined the kick up and squibbed it up the middle. The first line of Otterbein kickoff cover men scooped the ball up and fell on the 50-yard line. With a short field and two timeouts in hand, Otterbein began its assault down the field. A 34-yard pass put the Cardinals at the two-yard line. Senior defensive back Jordan Duncan saved the game with a tackle limiting Cardinal receiver George Redding to just one yard, placing Otterbein at the one before taking its final timeout with 8.4 seconds to go. After both teams took a timeout, the final play took place. Otterbein quarterback Bryce Hall took his place under center but mishandled the snap. Hall attempted to pick it up and make a move to the end zone but the Capital defense swarmed him and kept him short of the goal line, clinching the victory.
The win could not have been had it not been for the resiliency of the men on both sides of the ball, and on special teams. Junior Wyatt Pertuset (Richwood, Ohio/North Union) put together solid performances serving in an increased role on the receiver front and cranking out multiple punts that made the Cardinals work. Pertuset set a new career-high with two touchdown receptions and made three catches for a total of 49 yards.
Capital's first flash of brilliance on its special teams unit came after the Cardinals' first score of the game. Otterbein made noise and found the end zone first, but fireworks continued to spill over toward the Capital sideline on the point-after touchdown attempt. After Otterbein starting quarterback Steven Irwin hit tight end Tyler Ronk for a five-yard touchdown pass, Kole Carter (Lithopolis, Ohio/Gallia Academy) broke through the line to block the point-after attempt in flight. The junior scooped it up and took it the other way for the successful two-point conversion to make for a 6-2 score early in the first quarter.
The two teams took that score into the second quarter, but it did not last long. The Capital defense shut down the Cardinals on their first drive of the second quarter with a three-and-out. Though the Crusaders themselves were stymied on the next drive, a muffed punt got Capital back on offense. Pertuset boomed a punt downfield 49 yards but JT Thomas misplayed the punt. Freshman linebacker Bryce Johnson was at the right place at the right time and hopped on the loose ball.
On the very next play, Stanford did his best Thomas Wibbeler impression and on an end-around play floated a 22-yard pass to Pertuset in the back of the end zone to return the lead to Capital. With a successful PAT, Cap possessed a 9-6 lead.
Otterbein had to work for its next points. After senior linebacker Kane Murray forced a fumble by sacking quarterback Steven Irwin, Capital regained possession with 9:21 remaining in the second quarter. Wibbeler was then intercepted for a second time at the one-yard line, setting up the Otterbein scoring drive. Twelve plays and 99 yards later, backup quarterback Bryce Hall finished the drive he started with a one-yard rush up the middle into the end zone. The 13-9 score stood at halftime.
QB Thomas Wibbeler and WR Dar Stanford talk about the offense's resiliency and their view from the sideline on the final play.
Pride of the Purple sounds amazing after a Capital win at Otterbein.