Nov. 22, 2008

Courtesy of Wheaton (Ill.)

Angola, Ind. - In the battle of the two Thunder mascots, Wheaton College used a stout defense to shutout host Trine University 14-0 in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs on Saturday.

Wheaton improved to 9-2 overall and will play at Wabash College in the Second Round at Noon next Saturday.

The two teams faced off on a cold and windy day with temperatures in the high 20s. In the first quarter, Trine got the first scoring opportunity following a 38-yard quarterback draw by Eric Watt. But the 31-yard field goal attempt was pushed wide right.

Wheaton got its own field goal attempt from 37 yards out early in the second quarter. Once again, the wind was a factor as the ball also traveled wide right.

Trine’s run defense – which only allows 51.1 yards per game – was holding the running game in check. So Wheaton took to the air. Wide receivers Danny Hindman and Alex Pokorny were the main beneficiaries as they attacked the underneath of the zone coverage.

Quarterback Sean Norris finished the 12-play, 59-yard drive with a two-yard quarterback keeper in the second quarter with 3:49 left in the half.

After halftime, the visiting Thunder dominated the line of scrimmage and stuffed the vaunted Trine run offense, allowing only 66 yards on 31 carries in the game. Trine entered the contest averaging 191.9 yards per game. Wheaton’s linebackers sniffed out the run plays and stopped most the running attempts for little or no gain.

Trine had another shot at a field goal in the third quarter, but Pokorny flew in off the left side and blocked the kick.

That was not the only big play Pokorny (PICTURED RIGHT) would manufacture. He caught a 50-yard pass to get Wheaton in the red zone and then capped the 80-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown reception from Norris with 8:08 left in the quarter.

Third down was where Wheaton shined all game. The Thunder converted 9 of 15 third downs while holding Trine to 5 of 19.

“We know we’re a diverse offense and we can come from many different angles,” Norris said. “If they try to take away our big plays, we’ll take what they give us. Our offense executed. We had some mishaps we wish we could get back. But we came through when we needed to.”

With Wheaton gashing the defense with big plays and the Trine running game ground to a halt, Watt took to the air to get Trine back in the game.

Trine capitalized on a Wheaton fumble and interception in the fourth quarter to get back on offense. Trine threatened on several drives in the fourth quarter and showed urgency by converting 3 of 6 fourth downs in the final period. But Wheaton held the hosts scoreless, as a Tyler Langs interception in the end zone sealed the game with 57 seconds remaining.

Norris finished the game with 23 completions on 39 attempts for 315 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the game. Pokorny led the wide receivers with seven catches for 122 yards and a touchdown while Freddy Ellis tallied six catches for 100 yards. Rocky Gingg led Wheaton’s rushing attack with 111 yards on 24 carries, including a long run of 45 yards.

Defensively, Wheaton tallied six sacks on the game. Langs led Wheaton with nine tackles, two sacks and an interception. Pete Ittersagen tallied seven tackles and Aaron Reyes had seven tackles and 1.5 sacks.

“It’s a great win for Wheaton College football,” Wheaton head coach Mike Swider said. “I’m proud of our players. We turned the ball over a bit and some key penalties hurt us. But we got critical first downs and kept drives alive. I’m immensely proud of our players.”

The win marked Coach Swider’s 105th career victory, which gives him the most in program history after being tied with Harve Chrouser. Swider is now 105-31 since taking over as Wheaton head coach in 1996.