|by Joceyln Hopkinson '15 • October 13, 2012|
One way to avoid a letdown after a big win is to methodically run the football. The Little Giants ground out 345 yards here Saturday to suppress any Washington University Bear upset notions. Wabash plodded its way to a 34-14 win.
“Everyone’s been talking all week about a letdown and I was glad our guys responded with a great week of practice and got the win against a well-coached team on the road,” Coach Erik Raeburn said.
The 5-1 Little Giants were coming off a big Wittenberg win and a homecoming victory before that. The team lost at Washington University two years ago, 24-20.
The 345 rushing yards are the second-most this season for the Little Giants. Quarterback Chase Belton led all rushers with 166.
All of Belton’s yards were gained in the first half. He was knocked out of the game in the second quarter after suffering a mild concussion. Junior Andy Walsh stepped in for the rest of the game.
“Any time your quarterback goes down, that can disrupt the flow of the offense,” Raeburn said. “We were really moving the ball well in the first half so it’s disappointing but Andy went in there and did a great job.”
Walsh came in with the offense in the red zone. The Clinton, IN native finished the drive with a bullet throw to wide receiver Sean Hildebrand. The touchdown pass was the first of Walsh’s career.
“We (Walsh and Hildebrand) throw around a bunch in practice,” Walsh said. “He was actually running a route that was short of the end zone but because of the goal line being right there he had to run longer. We had the same mindset and I trusted him to make the right adjustment and then make the great catch.”
Defensively, the Little Giants had another stout performance. The Bears’ first touchdown came on a second quarter drive, keyed by a fumble/fleaflicker pass for 31 yards. The other WashU points came on a short field following an interception.
“We knew if stopped the run, we’d be able to dial in and get after the quarterback,” linebacker AJ Akinribade said. “We focused on little things like reading our keys so in passing situations we could pressure the quarterback.”
The Wabash defense was in Eric Daginella’s face all game. Despite not recording any sacks, Akinribade and company hit the Bears’ quarterback on a consistent basis.
“It’s good and bad all at the same time,” Akinribade said. “The hits were there and we got in his face and put him under stress. But it’s just a step too slow here or a step in the wrong direction there that made us miss. Those little things were the difference between a good play and a great play.”
Scoring didn’t start until the closing seconds of the first quarter when Belton sprinted through the left side of the line untouched for a 69-yard touchdown. The touchdown run marked the longest of the senior quarterback’s career.
The second score again involved Belton running left. This time he fooled the defensive end before he picked his way through blocks for a 56-yard score.
Wabash extended the lead to 20-0 on Walsh’s touchdown pass to Hildebrand on its next drive. The Bears were able to get on the board before the first half expired with a Daginella screen pass to Chris Castelluccio for 16 yards, 20-7.
The Bears pulled within 6 early in the third quarter on a Daginella quarterback sneak, but the team would not make it back to the end zone again, 20-13.
Wabash shrugged off its sluggish second start with a touchdown drive capped by a Tyler Holmes 3-yard run. The team’s final score came in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard CP Porter run for the final, 34-14.
Akinribade and Nate Scola led all tacklers with 9 apiece and Jonathan Koop snared his third interception of the year. Linebacker and back up kicker Brock Smith replaced an injured Ian McDougal and executed two extra-point attempts.
Wabash returns home Saturday to host The College of Wooster. The Little Giants will tackle a second tough foe as well, recognizing Breast Cancer Month by wearing pink. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m.