WILMINGTON, Ohio - The Wilmington College football team outgained Muskingum University 294-247, but could not overcome five turnovers as the Fighting Muskies escaped a capacity crowd at Williams Stadium with a 31-24 victory in Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) action on Saturday afternoon.
"This team will fight. I'm so proud of them," Head Football Coach Bryan Moore said. "Our defense kept us in the game despite our offense putting them in some tough situations."
Muskingum (2-2, 1-2 OAC) took the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards in five played capped by a 10-yard touchdown run from Brody Hahn. Wilmington (1-2, 0-2 OAC) started in great field position thanks to a 46-yard kickoff return from Luke Richardson, but were stuffed on a 4th-and-1 and turned the ball over on downs.
The Muskies' next possession ended in three plays as Tavion Bryant forced and recovered a fumble which setup a 41-yard field goal from Tyler Butcher. The Quaker defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and quarterback Kyle Barrett drove Wilmington 70 yards in seven plays to take a 10-7 lead on a one-yard touchdown throw to Weston Trampler.
Trailing for the first time in the game (10-7), Muskingum looked take the lead as the Muskies drove into the Quakers' red zone, but an interception stalled the drive. Unfortunately for Wilmington, Barrett's pass on the next possession was tipped and intercepted, setting up a 37-yard field goal that tied the game.
Wilmington got the ball back with just under two minutes to play in the half and looked to score and take a lead into halftime, but Brandon Schon ran under a Barrett pass, intercepted it and returned the ball 41 yards for a score that gave Muskingum a 17-10 lead at the break.
Both teams went three-and-out on their opening possession of the second half, but two Wilmington fumbles stalled the next Quakers' drives. After the second fumble, Warren Wilson found the end zone to push the Muskingum lead to two scores.
After one more stalled drive from each team followed, Barrett found AJ Hightower deep for a 69-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Trailing by a touchdown, Wilmington's defense forced Muskingum into two third downs on the next drive, but both were converted as the Wilson capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive that chewed up 6:32 of game time.
Trailing 31-17 with just under five minutes to play, Wilmington did not quit as Barrett found Zayne Hart open for a 30-yard strike and followed that up with a 20-yard touchdown to Richardson on 3rd-and-goal.
Muskingum had a chance to run out the clock on the following possession after converting a third down, but the Quaker defense forced the Muskies to step back into punt formation with 20 seconds to play after three straight stops. The snap went over the punter's head, giving Wilmington the ball 15 yards from the endzone with 15 seconds left.
The Muskies' defense rose to the occasion once again, however, getting to Barrett and forcing a third interception that sealed the game.
Muskingum had the better run game on the day, rushing for 180 yards despite an average over just 3.3 per carry. Wilmington, which managed 57 yards on 29 carries, won the passing game throwing for 237 yards on the day. The Muskies were held to just 4-of-13 for 67 yards through the air.
"Muskingum created a lot of programs with their defensive line that made it uncomfortable for us all game," Moore said. "There was a lot of situational football that determined field position and momentum in this game. I need to do a better job as a coach in making decisions in those situations."
Barrett finished 17-of-28 for 237 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions along with rushing for 25 yards. DJ Chambers ran for 39 yards for Wilmington while Hightower hauled in three receptions for 96 yards and one score.
The Muskingum trio of Brody Hahn, Warren Wilson and Cameron Near combined for 197 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
"This loss will hurt tonight for sure," said Moore. "But we will wake up tomorrow, get back to work and continue to be relentless in our quest to change the culture of this program."
The Quakers host Heidelberg University next Saturday.