|by Howard W. Hewitt • September 20, 2008|
Wabash sent notice Saturday it has added a rushing attack to go with its usual powerful passing game. The Little Giants chewed up 184 yards on the ground en route to a 49-7 win over the University of Chicago.
A full weekend of Wabash activities built around the Saturday afternoon football game filled the Crawfordsville campus. The usual 3,500-plus fans jammed Hollett Little Giant Stadium for Erik Raeburn’s home coaching debut. See photo albums here, here, here.
A much-improved defensive effort and balanced offensive attack overwhelmed the visiting Maroons (0-2) in their first matchup with Wabash since 1939. The Little Giants ran the ball for 184 yards, setting the tempo on the game’s opening possession.
Bobby Kimp carried the ball seven times including the final two yards for the opening score. He finished the day with 74 yards on 17 carries.
"The running game compared to last year is much improved," the senior back said. "We’re moving the ball with more consistency, four yards then five yards. Last year we struggled a lot and at times last year we were one-dimensional and down the road it kind of hurt us. This year we have a nice running game and with Matt (Hudson) playing the way he’s playing, we seem to be a complete unit."
Hudson, who hit on 19 of 28 attempts for two scores, got the Little Giants on the board again in the second quarter with a 36-yard strike to Brock Graham. But it was the defense that was setting the tone and made, arguably, the biggest play of the rout.
Chicago ventured near midfield with under a minute to play when Dan Ryan Wood stepped in front of a John Keirnan pass and returned it 64 yards down the sideline to ignite the Wabash crowd and give Wabash a 21-0 halftime margin.
"I thought our defense played a lot better," Raeburn said. "We thought we played good run defense last week but one of the things we were disappointed in was we just didn’t see the guys breaking on the football in the passing game. I think we’ll be a lot happier when we put the films on after this game and see there were several guys breaking on the ball and getting their hands on the football. It looked a lot better in the secondary and at linebacker."
Rich Lehmann led Wabash with seven tackles. He said the difference this week was a "finish the play" mentality the team lacked at Denison. "We believe last week the only reason they scored was we shot ourselves in the foot," the senior linebacker said. "And if you look at all their drives last week they were on penalties and more penalties."
Wabash held the Maroons to 86 yards rushing and 108 passing. The Little Giants accumulated 481 total yards on offense while limiting Chicago to 194. After being flagged 13 times for more than 100 yards last week, Wabash saw only eight yellows for 54 yards in its home debut.
Minus one Kiernan touchdown pass to Clay Wolff against Wabash’s second defensive unit, the entire second half was all Wabash.
The Little Giants scored twice in the third quarter. The first drive was again anchored by Kimp’s running with Andrew Rode hauling in a short Hudson pass for the score. A little trickery led to the next touchdown. The key play in the drive was Hudson’s 57-yard toss to Graham. Hudson then handed off to Kimp who gave the ball on an end-around to Rode who waltzed 23 yards in for the score, 35-0.
Both of Wabash’s final scores came on the ground. Derrick Yoder scored on a one-yard plunge then Adam Pilli led a second team effort to close the game when he rushed for 27 yards on the final drive of the game and picked up his final six at the goal line. 49-7
Wabash entered the game wanting to run the ball, but this week they did it. Chicago plays a 3-3-5 defense. "We knew we were going to need to run the football." Raeburn said. "With only three defensive linemen they can play a lot of different coverages, so we felt like running the football was important. We didn’t feel like we did a great job of it last week, so yea that was more of an emphasis today."
Kimp, Yoder, and Pilli must be enjoying the new emphasis. The three combined for 154 of the Little Giants 184 yards on a combined 35 attempts. The three backs have done all this while last year’s leading rusher Evan Sobecki continues to recover from a pre-season injury.
The game was delayed an extra 45 minutes at halftime by a thunderstorm in the area. It didn’t seem to bother Wabash. "That’s tough, I’ve never actually had one of those," Raeburn said. "We were going through our regular halftime before we heard there was a delay . So then we just gave them some time to relax; we talked about some of the mistakes we made in the first half. I thought they handled it pretty well. I was worried we’d come out flat after getting the big play right before the half."
The coach was happy to finally get a game at home after spring practice, pre-season conditioning, and a road opener. "I’ve been waiting a long time for this. Everyone talked about what a great atmosphere it is on campus and I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. Seems like it took forever for us to get here, but it was a lot of fun."
Wabash (2-0) will be on the road Saturday for its first visit in recent years to NCAC foe Kenyon.
Other weekend activities included dedication of the new TKE and Delta Tau Delta fraternity houses and the MXI Reunion. Look Monday for photo albums from all three events.