By Pete Chiodo
Simply put, Wabash was too big, too experienced and too skilled for Allegheny to handle as the 19th-ranked Little Giants put the wood to the Gators 67-0 during a homecoming game at Frank B. Fuhrer Field on Saturday.
“That’s what a quality small-college football program looks like,” Gators head coach Mark Matlak said after the game. “That’s what it looks like physically, and that’s what it looks like when it executes in all three phases of the game. That’s what the real guys do. Very impressed. You’ve got to be very impressed.”
Wabash was after a little redemption after falling to Allegheny 20-17 in overtime in last season’s meeting in Indiana, a loss that had hobbled the Giants’ postseason hopes.
“Last year we felt like we played poorly,” said Wabash head coach Eric Raeburn. “We got out-played, out-coached. We didn’t have the right kind of effort. And that game hurt us at the end of the season as well. So we talked to our guys about that. And we had a good week of practice. The guys were focused. They handled the trip. And I was really proud of their attitude and mental approach to the game.”
Wabash (3-0 overall, 2-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) got their revenge even without two key figures in its offense. Starting quarterback Michael Putko was out for disciplinary reasons. And starting running back Tyler Holmes is out after tearing up his knee last week.
Not the best place to start.
“No,” said Raeburn, “and it’s a tough trip over here. We’ve always struggled up here. So I was real happy that Andy (Walsh) at quarterback and Mason (Zurek) and Anthony (Stella) and C.P. (Porter) at running back stepped in for those two guys and were able to play well on offense.”
Despite any personnel issues, Wabash had enough left over to out-gain Allegheny 495-55 and gain 19 first downs to the Gators’ two.
The Giants were rolling downhill right from the get-go, chalking up three touchdowns in the first quarter, including a 1-yard touchdown run by Mason Zurek, a 14-yard scoring pass from Andy Walsh to Houston Hodges, and a short fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Cody Buresh.
The first quarter was also when Allegheny lost starting quarterback Jon Nigro, who took a hard hit in the backfield that aggravated an already-sore shoulder. Stephen Nymick replaced him for the rest of the game and completed 6 of 13 passes for 48 yards.
Wabash added 24 more points in the second quarter. Anthony Stella scored on a 3-yard run. Delon Pettiford returned an interception 25 yards to the house. Kicker Ian MacDougall kicked 34-yard field goal. And Zurek scored his second touchdown of the game, breaking off a 70-yarder.
Zurek ended up leading the Little Giants in Holmes’ place, gaining 157 yards on a dozen carries.
The Giants tacked on 17 more points in the third. MacDougall booted a 30-yard field goal. Connor Rice broke a 50-yard run into the end zone. And the Gators had a punt blocked that was garbbed by defensive back Brock Smith and returned 26 yards for a TD.
Before the game was up, back-up kicker Andrew Tutsie chipped in with a 31-yard field goal.
The Gators are of off to their first 0-4 start to the season since 1981. They’ll look to halt the skid this coming Saturday when they take on Ohio Wesleyan in Delaware, Ohio.
“You know what, they don’t cancel the games,” said Matlak. “No one’s going to call up and say, ‘Coach Matlak, we feel sorry for you so we don’t have to play the next six.’
“We’re going to have to strap it up and come up with some answers.”