WILMINGTON, Ohio - Ohio Northern University (ONU) scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 38-35 lead for the first time in the game, but the Wilmington College football team engineered a 90-yard drive capped by a go-ahead score with 28 seconds left to defeat the Polar Bears 42-38 in Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) action on Saturday afternoon.
The win was Wilmington's first over ONU since 1956 and snapped a 25-game losing streak to the Polar Bears.
"First and foremost, I want to commend the football program at Ohio Northern," Head Football Coach Bryan Moore said. "Their head coach [Dean Paul] gave me my first coaching opportunity [at Thomas College]. If it wasn't for my experience working for Coach Paul, I could not have won this game today. I'm sure that's a little bittersweet for hiim today."
The Fightin' Quakers took the opening kickoff and scored on a 12-play, 70-yard drive as quarterback Kyle Barrett scampered in from five yards out. The Polar Bears would answer with a 42-yard strike from Anthony McFadden to Austin Eick, but two long plays on the following Wilmington drive – a 33-yard reception from Luke Richardson and 25-yard touchdown strike to Itika Wynn Jr. – gave the hosts a touchdown lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Wilmington defense came up with a stop on fourth down, and the offense made ONU pay immediately as Richardson hauled in an acrobatic, one-handed catch for a 59-yard touchdown. Trailing 21-7, the Polar Bears drove into Quaker territory for a field goal, but once again, the Quaker offense struck for another huge play as Gino Hinton broke a tackle and outran the ONU defense for a 65-yard touchdown. That 28-10 score would hold into halftime.
"We talked emphatically at halftime about staying aggressive and calling the same plays," said Moore. "Coach [Matt] Byrne and Coach [Hayden] Thomas and our whole offensive staff did a phenomenal job."
Both teams scored on seven-play drives to begin the second half, and with the score 35-17, ONU scored again as All-American running back Christiaan Williams scored from three yards out. On Wilmington's next possession, a rare miscue from the offense occurred as the Polar Bears pounced on a fumble. Two plays later, however, Dusty Lykins picked off an Anthony McFadden pass to give the hosts back possession.
The hosts couldn't capitalize as the Polar Bear defense forced a punt for the first time on the afternoon. Re-energized, the ONU offense scored on its next two possessions to take its first lead, 38-35, midway through the fourth quarter.
Wilmington drove into ONU territory on the next drive, but turned the ball over on downs. The Quaker defense rose up and gave its offense back the ball by forcing an ONU punt near midfield. Barrett and the offense took over at its own 10-yard line with 2:12 to play.
The first three plays yielded nine-and-a-half yards, and after a timeout from Wilmington, Barrett kept the drive alive with a scramble and dive forward for three yards. Richardson broke free on the next play for a 40-yard pass down the seam, and after a play for no gain, Ace Taylor made a great over the shoulder catch despite being interfered with.
That setup the Quakers with 1sts-and-goal from the 8-yard line, and Wynn Jr. got behind the ONU defense on a crossing route. Barrett, as he was for most of the day, delivered an accurate pass that sent the capacity Williams Stadium crowd into pandemonium.
Ohio Norther got to midfield, but McFadden's Hail Mary attempt hit the ground, giving Wilmington its second Homecoming Weekend victory in three seasons.
"I'm so dang proud of those kids," Moore said. They have had to overcome so much and persevere to have this moment."
Wilmington outgained ONU 592-473 along with a 406-283 margin in passing yards. The Polar Bears did run for more yards than the Quakers (190-186), but it was best rushing output of the season for the hosts.
Our running back also showed up this week which was massive," Moore said. "We didn't do anything different from our previous two weeks, but I think the league is starting to respect our receiving core. They demand coverage all over the field."
Both teams converted exactly 50 percent of their third down conversions as well so both squads committing a single turnover.
Individually, Barrett finished 26-of-34 for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Both Wynn Jr. and Taylor hauled in eight receptions with three of Wynn Jr.'s being for scores. Richardson's stat line was five catches for 190 yards and one touchdown.
Hinton carried the ball 14 times for 121 yards and the 65-yard touchdown.
For ONU, McFadden completed 24-of-31 for four touchdowns and one interception. Eick grabbed nine receptions for 151 yards and two scores while Williams rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, Tre'Quez Parks had 14 tackles and two sacks for Wilmington while Mark Niles had a dozen tackles and two sacks for ONU.
The Quakers (1-2, 1-1 OAC) head to Muskingum University next weekend.