Crusaders Comeback in Third Straight Win, Defeats Muskingum 33-28

Pictured: Dar Stanford (photo credit: Spencer Dilyard)
Pictured: Dar Stanford (photo credit: Spencer Dilyard)

By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director

NEW CONCORD, Ohio – Capital University Football sought its third straight win in its regular season finale and had to work for it being on the road and down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Crusaders scored three unanswered touchdowns, two by way of the Zanesville Connection, to overcome the Muskingum University Fighting Muskies and leave New Concord with a 33-28 victory in the season finale.

Following CU quarterback Thomas Wibbeler's third interception of the day, Muskingum replied with a 68-yard touchdown pass to put the Muskies up two touchdowns with just over 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Cue the comeback.

Capital then mounted a 10-play, 45-yard touchdown drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown pass from Thomas Wibbeler (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville) to Dartavious Stanford (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville). The defense then answered the call by forcing a three-and-out and putting the ball back into the hands of the offense.

Starting with strong field position for the second consecutive drive, Wibbeler orchestrated a drive that consisted of three 10-plus yard pass plays and once again put the Crusaders down on the one-yard line. Senior running back Cory Heeter (Circleville, Ohio/Logan Elm) barreled his way into the end zone with 4:45 left on the clock. However, Muskingum came through the line and blocked the extra-point attempt.

Now down by one point, 28-27, freshman Cade McCaskey (Findlay, Ohio/Findlay) came up big with two stops before sophomore linebacker Trey Zimmer (Malinta, Ohio/Patrick Henry) knocked the ball free of Brody Hahn's grasp and then fell on top of the ball to flip the field.

With 3:26 remaining on the clock and in enemy territory, Capital worked its way into field position for a 37-yard field goal. Sophomore Blake Middleton's kick was blocked and recovered for a touchback, however, the play was negated due to a personal foul penalty on the Muskies. Capital was awarded a first down and moved down to the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Wibbeler and Stanford connected for a 13-yard touchdown pass and catch on a slant route into the end zone. After a failed two-point conversion, Capital held a 33-28 lead and left 1:12 on the clock.

With five completed passes, Muskingum quarterback Brody Hahn moved the Muskies inside the 10-yard line. Facing a third and six and short time, Hahn attempted to find Terry Geiger in the end zone but was unsuccessful as the ball fell to the ground and time expired.

The win marks Capital's third straight victory following wins over Otterbein University and Wilmington College. They close out the 2018 season with an overall record of 3-7 and a 3-6 conference ledger.

The comeback win could not have been without the efforts of both the defensive secondary, three touchdown catches by Dar Stanford, and freshman Kameron Lee's fourth touchdown reception of the season.

Capital's defense hauled in three interceptions before halftime, two of which directly halted Muskingum scoring drives. Junior Kole Carter (Gallipolis, Ohio/Gallia Academy) made his second interception of the season on the goal line in the first quarter, while freshman Cade McCaskey nabbed his third pick of the year deep in Musky territory.

Both of those interceptions led to Capital touchdowns, scored at the top and midway through the second quarter. Following Carter's interception, Capital went 13 plays and 84 yards to set up a 26-yard touchdown pass to Lee, his second in as many games. The second led the first of Stanford's three touchdown catches on the day, an 11-yard pitch-and-catch.

Two of Muskingum's scores came on big plays including a 47-yard touchdown run by running back Warren Wilson and a 63-yard touchdown reception by Jailen Willis. Wilson finished with two rushing touchdowns, and was one of two Muskingum players to finish with over 100 yards on the ground, the other being Brody Hahn (108). Wilson finished with a game-best 114 yards on 14 carries.

In the final games of their collegiate careers, Wibbeler and Stanford each went out with a bang. Wibbeler finished the day having gone 31-for-56 for 299 yards through the air, including four touchdowns and three interceptions. Wibbeler will finish second on the all-time Capital lists in total offense (7,795), passing yardage (7,381) and touchdown passes (64).

Stanford finished with 11 catches and 119 yards and three touchdowns. He finishes his career with 24 touchdown catches, good for third all-time on the CU charts. His 2,202 yards pushes him to number five on the school's all-time list, and his 148 catches marks him seventh in a career. With his Saturday stat line, he now has recorded 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns for the second straight season.

On the defensive end, sophomore linebacker Michael Lauofo (Miamisburg, Ohio/Miamisburg) led the Crusaders with 13 total tackles, 10 of them solo. He also recorded one blocked punt, that prior to Capital's possession that led to the Heeter touchdown.

Zimmer ended the day with nine tackles, 3.5 of those for a loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

The defense, as a whole, held the Muskies to just five third down conversions on 14 attempts. While Hahn succeeded in the team's run game, he was held to 219 yards on 14-of-30 passing and was picked off twice. One of Capital's interceptions was off of running back Jordan Garrett on an attempted trick play.

Capital has now won its last four contests against Muskingum and with its third straight win hits that milestone for the first time since the 2016 season when they defeated Muskingum, Wilmington and Otterbein in succession.