WILMINGTON, Ohio - The Wilmington College football led Olivet College 10-6 after three quarters, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns from the Comets gave them a 20-17 victory over the Fightin' Quakers in the season-opening game held at Williams Stadium on Saturday evening.
"Olivet is a good football team that has had a lot of success in recent years," Head Football Coach Bryan Moore said. "I'm really proud of our kids for battling through some adversity."
The Wilmington defense forced a three-and-out on the first drive of the game as Tavion Bryant made a tackle and forced an incomplete pass on third down. The Quaker offense then engineered a 12-play, 90-yard drive including a 35-yard strike from Kyle Barrett to Luke Richardson and one-yard run from Barrett and 4th-and-goal. Trailing 7-0, Olivet got just over midfield before the drive stalled once again.
The Quakers would give the ball back on the next play, however, as Barrett was sacked and fumbled. Four plays later, the Comets gave it right back as Tre'Quez Parks stripped Elijah Lewis and Ameer Jackson jumped on the ball. Wilmington took over at its own 14-yard line and drove into the red zone thanks to three third down conversions. The Quakers would have to settle for a 39-yard field goal from Tyler Butcher after a bubble screen pass went backwards (causing a loss of yardage rush) and a sack ended the threat of a touchdown. In total, the Wilmington field goal drive spanned 15 plays and 57 yards.
The Quaker offense wouldn't have to wait long to return to the field as Brandon Lemley stripped Carte'yae Gordo, the Olivet running back, setting up Wilmington at the Olivet 34-yard line. This time, however, it was the Comets' defense which stepped up forcing a turnover on downs.
"There were a couple critical moments of situational football that we did not do very well," said Moore. "We didn't get any points on that short field."
Olivet answered with a 12-play, 70-yard drive capped by a quarterback keeper from Kaleb Jarrett to get on the board with 34 seconds to play in the first half. The point after attempt failed and Wilmington took a 10-6 edge into the break.
Both teams had two full drives in the third quarter, but failed to score. The Comets ended the drought by scoring less than three minutes into the fourth quarter on a drive where Olivet handed the ball off to running back Noah McMinn five consecutive times.
After forcing a Wilmington punt, McMinn and the Olivet senior-laden offensive line went to work as the Comets gave it to him eight straight plays, drove deep into Wilmington territory and milked over eight minutes off the clock. The Quaker defense did stop McMinn for no gain late in the drive, setting up a 4th-and-5 from the six-yard line. After a Wilmington timeout to stop the clock, Olivet elected to go for it up three points. That decision paid off as Jarrett rolled to his right and found Seth Young for the touchdown.
"We saw a lot of growth in our defense tonight," Moore said. "Despite getting worn down, they battled and kept us within an onside kick recovery of possibly winning the game."
Trailing 20-10, the Wilmington offense executed its hurry-up offense to perfection as Barrett found Ace Taylor for a 17-yard score that capped a six-play, 64-yard drive in just 1:18.
The ensuing onside kick attempt with 45 seconds bounced out of bounds, and two kneel downs gave Olivet the victory.
Wilmington finished the game with 259 yards including 212 yards through the air and 47 yards on the ground. Olivet countered with 265 yards on 97 passing and 168 rushing. The Comets did convert 8-of-13 third down conversions while the Quakers were 5-of-12.
Individually, Barrett completed 18-of-28 for 212 yards and the one touchdown. Taylor, who hauled in the late touchdown pass, grabbed eight receptions for 35 yards while Luke Richardson made three catches for 60 yards. Malik Sims led Wilmington in rushing with 35 yards on nine carries.
McMinn finished with 110 yards rushing for Olivet on 26 carries.
Andrew Campbell led the Comets in tackles with 11.
Wilmington (0-1) will open Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) play at Heidelberg University next Saturday.