The Wabash defense handcuffed Denison University’s offensive attack Saturday, leading the 25th-ranked Little Giants to a 28-7 home victory in North Coast Athletic Conference action.
Wabash held the Big Red (3-2, 2-2 NCAC) to 49 yards of total offense and one first down in the second half. Denison came into the game ranked third in the nation in total offense by averaging 562.5 yards a game. The Little Giants limited Denison to 15 yards on nine plays in the third quarter while the Wabash offense scored twice on touchdowns runs from Ike James to stretch its lead to 21-7.
“The defensive effort starts with coaches Jeff Ramsey, David Denham, Jeff Franklin, and the rest of our defensive staff,” Wabash head coach Don Morel said. “They did a great job today against Denison. If you look at the overall performance of our defense, when the book finally closes they do a great job.”
Wabash stifled the Denison passing game and junior quarterback Canaan Gebele. A Second Team All-NCAC selection in 2016, Gebele came into the game as the number-two passer in the conference in completion percentage (67.2 percent) and third in passing yards per game (283.0). Gebele complete 12-of-21 passes for 103 yards with one interception. The Big Red only averaged 240 rushing yards per game, but has limited success against Wabash. Denison ran the ball 30 times for 163 yards and one score.
The Little Giants stopped Denison on its opening drive when Satchel Burton forced a fumble after a Big Red pass completion to set up an 11-play, 59-yard drive that ended with a James four-yard touchdown run. Denison tied the game at 7-7 in the second period when Alex Minton found the end zone on a two-yard run. Minton led Denison with 16 carries for 77 yards.
Burton shared high honors for tackles for Wabash with Evan Hansen. Both players made seven total tackles. Burton broke up a pass late in the game that Hansen intercepted to give Wabash a pair of Denison turnovers. The Little Giants did not commit a turnover in the game.
Wabash turned to its ball-control offense in the second half. The Little Giants converted only six first downs, rushed for 59 yards, and held the ball for only 12:59 in the first half. The final 30 minutes belonged to Wabash with the Little Giants rushing for 203 yards in the final two periods with 20 minutes of ball possession. James scored two touchdowns on runs of four and 29 yards. The sophomore running back converted a third-down run midway through the fourth quarter with a powerful 67-yard run, dragging a Denison defender for nearly 10 yards. His run set up a Weston Murphy touchdown on a play fake to Tyler Downing. Murphy raced into the end zone untouched for the two-yard score.
“I was really happy for Weston,” Morel said. “He’s worked hard to figure that fake out. It’s not his cup of tea. Coach Craig Knoche was positive the play was there.”
James finished with 158 rushing yards and three scores on 22 carries. He has scored ten rushing touchdowns this season.
Wabash remains atop the NCAC standings, tied with Wittenberg and DePauw with 4-0 records in conference play, 5-0 overall. The Little Giants play host to Ohio Wesleyan October 14. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.