WESTERVILLE, Ohio - The Wilmington College football team battled scored a touchdown and converted a go-ahead, two-point conversion in the final minute to come from behind and defeat Otterbein University 28-27 in an Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) contest on Saturday afternoon.
Though the finish was crazy, the first half was anything but that. The Fightin' Quakers scored on their opening drive as Gino Hinton Jr. capped an 11-play, 53-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run to open the scoring. The Cardinals equalized midway through the quarter on a 34-yard rush from Bryce Lowry, but Wilmington pushed the ball back into enemy territory as Luke Richardson returned the kickoff for 52 yards. Four plays later, Malik Sims scored, but the point-after attempt failed.
That score, 13-7, would remain until late in the third quarter when a Kyle Barrett pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Trailing by a point, Butcher had a chance to redeem himself from the missed PAT on the ensuing possession, but his 45-yard field goal sailed wide right.
The Quakers' defense held on the next possession, and as the fourth quarter opened, Wilmington drove into Otterbein territory once again. On 4th-and-2 from the Cardinal 30-yard line, the Quakers went for it, but Sims was stopped a yard short. After another Otterbein punt, Barrett connected with Richardson on a 76-yard score with 7:50 to play in the game. Butcher's point-after attempt was true this time around, and Wilmington led 20-14.
Unfortunately, the visitors' defense wouldn't get a stop a third straight possession as Matt Webb's 56-yard run setup an Otterbein touchdown on 4th-and-15. The Cardinals converted the go-ahead extra point to take a 21-20 lead.
Disaster would strike for Wilmington on the next offensive possession as a Barrett pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown with less than 90 seconds to play (the Quakers still had two timeouts remaining at the time). Otterbein, up 27-20, elected to try and win the game with a two-point conversion, but it failed.
Wilmington was graced with good field position thanks to an Otterbein unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and after a sack on the first place, Barrett found Ace Taylor for a first down to cross midfield. After two incompletions, Barrett connected with Itika Wynn Jr. for a 32-yard gain to the Cardinal four-yard line. The duo would strike again on the next play, getting Wilmington within a point after the touchdown.
Similar to Otterbein Head Coach Tim Doup, Wilmington Head Coach Bryan Moore elected to go for the win. Barrett threw a pass in traffic to, you guessed it, Wynn Jr., who caught the ball to give Wilmington a 28-27 lead and the program's first road win since defeating Heidelberg University in Tiffin in 2008.
"We have been in quite a few close games like this, and I didn't get a sense of panic from the guys," Moore said after the game. "We, as a staff, have been emphatic about getting our team to finish, and today, with seconds to go in the season, they finished."
Wilmington finished with 455 total yards to Otterbein's 326. The Quakers, who converted 10-of-18 third-down attempts, held the Cardinals to 146 yards passing and just nine completions.
Barrett finished 21-of-33 for 301 yards and two scores while Hinton Jr. ran for 119 yards and a score in his final collegiate game. Wynn Jr. hauled in seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown while Richardson had three catches for 96 yards and a score.
"Itika [Wynn Jr.] is a problem for opposing defenses and will continue to be for the next couple of years," said Moore. "He missed a lot of the fourth quarter with cramping, but was put back out there when we needed him. 'TUFF' kid."
Webb was Otterbein's bright spot offensively, rushing 17 times for 122 yards.
"Our defensive staff has done a great job developing that unit throughout the year," Moore said. "They played well all game and really stepped up the last 3-4 weeks."
Greg Nolder and Ryan Tuchow led the Cardinal defense with 14 and 12 tackles respectively. Tuchow and Blake Montiel had the interceptions that were returned for scores.
The win puts Wilmington's record at 3-7 on the season and 3-6 in OAC play. Both mark program bests in the last decade.
"Our seniors, most of whom, I inherited, get to go out with back-to-back wins, a road OAC win and the memory of an unbelievable game," said Moore. I am eternally grateful for them sticking with me. Not everyone is 'TUFF' enough to go through what they did, and keep getting up and going back to work. I hope today made it all worth it for them."