|by Jim Amidon • October 29, 2005|
The Wabash College football team is in a streak of games where opponents are taking their best shots at knocking off the nationally ranked and undefeated Little Giants. Allegheny College entered Saturday's game with a 1-6 record, but gave Wabash all it wanted in a 27-21 Little Giant victory.
The win improved Wabash's record to 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the North Coast Athletic Conference, assuring the Little Giants of at least a share of their second NCAC Championship since 2002.
But for Coach Chris Creighton, the win was overshadowed by a lackluster performance by his team.
"We made plays and won the game, but we don't measure ourselves that way," he said in the post-game interview. "We are truly trying to be the best we can be. Yes, we won today against a very good football team. But we didn't have fun today because we didn't play our best, and that is our goal every time we play. Allegheny had a lot to do with it, but it wasn't fun today."
Wabash was on the verge of taking a 20-0 lead on its first possession of the second half when Allegheny's Brad Stotski intercepted Russ Harbaugh's pass in the endzone and returned it 86 yards to the Wabash 14 yard line.
The game was a nail-biter from that point on.
"Hat's off to Allegheny," said Creighton. "They fought hard with pride and passion. I hope if I'm ever in the position of coaching a 1-6 team that I can hold it together like they have. They are fighters; a good football team that may just be a little snake-bit.
The game was as close as many expected it would be and came down to a handful of big plays. On Wabash's first possession, Harbaugh threw a ball that only Eric Summers could catch. When the defender dove for an interception and missed, Summers took off en route to a 36-yard score.
Allegheny showed plenty of spirit by driving deep into Wabash territory on the next drive, but Adrian Pynenberg's seventh sack of the season helped slow the Gators.
Harbaugh made another huge play to cap a 15-play, 69-yard drive when he bought time by rolling out before hitting Mike Russell on a four-yard pass to stake Wabash to a 13-0 lead.
The ensuing Allegheny drive was stopped with 4:30 remaining before halftime when back-up linebacker Justin Gardiner, subbing for the injured Pete Kempf, intercepted James Jones' pass.
"I'm not saying we played poorly today," said Creighton. "We made some plays when we needed them. There were good things that happened out there, but that is not how we measure ourselves."
Three more big plays stood out for Wabash in an otherwise inconsistent performance:
Harbaugh, facing fourth down with four yards to go at the Allegheny 24 yard-line in a 13-7 game, found Ray Green streaking down the right sideline for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Holding a 27-21 lead, Wabash needed a big punt from Chad Finely, who cracked a 42-yarder from deep in Wabash territory. That set up a four-downs-and-out defensive stand that ended when Aaron Selby knocked down Jimmy Savage's fourth-down pass with 2:21 to play.
"I told the guys that if they wanted to go to the store and buy a little plastic ring and break it in half, they could, but that we needed to win every game to accomplish our goals," added Creighton.
Harbaugh, in spite of taking four sacks and throwing just his third interception of the season, had another terrific day throwing the ball. The senior quarterback hit 30-of-39 passes for 309 yards with three touchdowns.
Wabash can complete its second undefeated North Coast Athletic Conference season by defeating visiting Denison in next week's final regular season home game.
"We can accomplish the first of our goals by winning next week," said Creighton. "But if we don't play up to our potential, it's going to rob some of the special aspects of winning a conference championship. It's Senior Day and our last home game and I know the guys are going to want to play great. Denison is certainly good enough to beat us, so we want to play our very best."
In photo: Tim Parker (41) joins a host of Little Giant defenders in stopping Allegheny's standout runner, Mario Tarquinio (17).