Nov. 29, 2008


Courtesy of Wheaton (Ill.)

Crawfordsville, Ind. – The Wheaton College football team played well in all facets of the game to earn a 59-28 victory at Wabash College on Saturday afternoon in a Second Round game of the NCAA Division III Playoffs. Wheaton (10-2) has advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals, where the Thunder will face Franklin College next Saturday at noon in Franklin, Indiana. Franklin (11-1) advanced to the Quarterfinals with a 38-28 win at North Central on Saturday afternoon.

“We played well today”, said head coach Mike Swider following today’s game. He added, “Ultimately you win games up front and our defensive line did a great job putting pressure on Wabash. Our defense did what we wanted them to do today. We stopped the run and pressured the quarterback.” Swider mentioned, “Plus, we were able to run the football, which put their defense on its heels and our passing game also did well today.” He concluded, “It is exciting for our players and the entire program to be advancing into the Quarterfinals.”

Wheaton tallied 504 yards of offense, with 300 passing yards and 204 yards on the ground. The Thunder defense held the potent Wabash offense to a season-low 266 total yards as the Little Giants passé for 230 yards, with 36 rushing yards. The Wheaton defensive front kept pressure on the Wabash offense throughout a game that saw the Thunder tally three tackles for lost yardage and six quarterback hurries.

Thunder quarterback Sean Norris completed 21 of his 31 passing attempts for 277 yards and four touchdown tosses to go along with five carries for 25 yards and a touchdown run. Senior receiver Alex Pokorny  caught 10 passes for 152 yards, with two touchdown catches. Sophomore running back Rocky Gingg ran for 111 yards, on 19 carries, with one touchdown.

Defensive backs Tyler Langs and Brian Hollett led the Thunder with eight total tackles each. Senior defensive end Ben Kuenzle made six tackles, including a sack of eight yards and quarterback hurry. Senior linebacker Jon Ryan tallied a sack and senior safety Shane Woodward recorded an interception.

Wabash quarterback Matt Hudson was 22-for-43 for 230 passing yards and two touchdowns. Brock Graham was the Little Giants’ leading receiver, with seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Kody LeMond added five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Rich Lehmann and Jared Lange led the Wabash defense with eight total tackles.

Norris said of the Thunder, “I thought this was a complete win for us. Our defense played extremely well and our offense was clicking on all cylinders.”

Linebacker Stephen Pagh said of Wheaton’s defensive pressure in today’s game, “We knew going into the game that we wanted to pressure him [Hudson]. We knew that Wabash was probably the biggest offensive line we have seen all year, but our defensive line did a great job. Our coaches used a lot of creative blitzes to get pressure.”

Wabash intercepted a Wheaton pass with 13:27 left in the first quarter on the first Thunder offensive play of the game. On the ensuing drive, a 19-yard pass by Hudson to Brady Young put the Little Giants at the Wheaton two-yard line. On first down, the Little Giants’ rushing attempt went for one yard to bring up second and goal at the one-yard line. The Thunder defense stopped the Little Giants’ rushing attempts at the goal line on second and third down to bring up fourth an goal. Wabash running back Evan Sobecki fought through the Wheaton defense to enter the end zone and give the hosts a 7-0 lead with 10:27 left in the first quarter. On the Thunder drive that followed the Little Giants’ touchdown, Wheaton methodically moved down the field for an eight-play drive of 58 yards that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Norris to senior Jeff Lake to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:02 left in the first quarter. On the Little Giants’ next offensive drive the Thunder forced a three-and-out, requiring Wabash to punt. The punt was a line-drive to Thunder All-American returner Pete Ittersagen who slipped through the Wabash tacklers for a 70-yard punt return into the end zone to give Wheaton a 14-7 advantage with 5:54 left in the opening quarter.

Following another strong Wheaton defensive effort with continued pressure on Hudson, including a quarterback sack by Ryan, Wheaton got the ball back at its own 43-yard line. Wheaton moved the ball to the Wabash 28-yard line when Norris threw a 21-yard pass to Freddy Ellis to put the Thunder at the Little Giants’ seven-yard line. On the next play Gingg stretched out the Wabash defense for a seven-yard touchdown run to extend the guests’ lead to 21-7 with 10:44 remaining in the second quarter. The Thunder offense continued its balanced effort on its next drive, which was highlighted by a 22-yard run by Norris who eluded Wabash’s defensive pressure and scampered out of four near-tackles on the play to get the Thunder to the Wabash 14-yard line. On the very next play Norris threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Pokorny to extend Wheaton’s lead to 28-7 with 5:30 left in the first half. Wabash snapped Wheaton’s string of 28-unanswered points with a four-yard touchdown pass from Hudson to LeMond with 46-seconds remaining in the first half to cut Wheaton’s lead to 28-14.

The Wheaton offense opened the second half of play and marched down to the Wabash five-yard line to set up a 22-yard field goal by Thunder kicker Tim Ellingsen to increase Wheaton’s lead to 31-14 with 10:45 left in the third quarter. Ellingsen’s field goal was his 12th of the year to tie him for Wheaton’s single-season field goal record. He matches the 12 field goals kicked by Chris Baughman in the 1999 season. Norris connected with Ellis at the Wabash two yard-line and the junior turned into the end zone on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 5:58 left in the third quarter to extend the Thunder lead to 38-14. A lengthy Wheaton offensive drive of eight plays and 61 yards culminated with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Norris to Pokorny to increase the Thunder advantage to 45-14 with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter.

Norris kept the ball for a one-yard touchdown run to give the Thunder a 52-14 lead with 14:11 remaining in the fourth quarter. Woodward picked off a Wabash pass in the end zone with 12:54 remaining in the game to stall a Little Giant scoring threat. Wabash regained the ball on a Thunder turnover and capitalized by turning in a six-play drive of 31 yards that concluded with a two-yard touchdown run by Bobby Kimp, with 9:52 remaining in the game for a 52-21 Wheaton lead. Andrew Hershey scored on a nine-yard run to increase Wheaton’s lead to 59-21 with 4:23 remaining in the game.