Senior running back Austin Hoover plowed into the end zone early in the fourth quarter to extend the Wabash football teams lead to ten points before securing a 16-13 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
The Little Giants improved to 2-0 with victory, thrilling a hearty group of fans who battled the remnant of Tropical Storm Gordon to watch the Wabash squad play its home opener and celebrate the senior members of its team prior to kickoff. Hoover’s five-yard capped a five-play, 23-yard drive that started after Wabash recovered a fumble, one of four turnovers committed by the visiting Pointers (0-2).
Stevens Point took an early lead after blocked punt led to a 20-yard field goal by Victor Ponterio. The Wabash defense limited the Pointers to three points in a goal line stand.
The Little Giants found the end zone on the next series. Matt Penola took a short pass 54 yards, weaving through defenders and taking advantage of an Oliver Page block to score and give Wabash a 7-3 lead midway through the first period. Schuyler Nehrig added a 24-yard field goal to extend the lead to 10-3 with 3:40 remaining in the second period. Stevens Point responded with a 34-yard field goal by Ponterio on the final play of the first half to make the score 10-6 at halftime.
Hoover, one of the 19 seniors honored in the pregame festivities, entered the game after starter Ike James left with a right leg injury in the third period. Hoover finished the game 69 rushing yards on 16 carries and the one touchdown. Wabash rushed for 218 yards on 54 attempts. James led the team with 120 yards and carried the football 26 times.
The touchdown run by Hoover gave Wabash the lead with 13:38 remaining in the contest. Neither scored until the Pointers capped a long nine-play, 74-yard drive with a quarterback keeper by Matt Urmanski to score from a yard out and cut the Wabash lead to three points. The Little Giants took the ensuing kickoff and ran out the game clock, with Hoover carrying the football on eight consecutive plays to keep the clock moving.
Wabash quarterback Jake Reid finished the game 11-21 with the touchdown pass to the senior Penola. Reid was picked off twice. The Little Giant defense produced three interceptions of its own, with Jake Page, Patrick Kelly, and Jose Franco each recording their first career interceptions. Franco added his first career fumble recovery and made five tackles.
The Little Giants held Stevens Point to 64 rushing yards on 32 attempts for a 2-yards-per-carry average. Senior linebacker Brock Heffron paced the defense with eight tackles. He recorded three of Wabash’s nine tackles for losses totaling 25 yards. Brandon Yeagy and Artie Equihua each made six tackles.
Wabash returns to the North Coast Athletic Conference portion of its schedule next Saturday, traveling to Kenyon College for a 2 p.m. contest.