WESTERVILLE, Ohio – After a week filled with ongoing challenges behind the scenes due to COVID protocol issues, the Otterbein football team took the field Saturday afternoon for its season opener against Ohio Wesleyan.
The environment around Memorial Stadium was seemingly back to normal, featuring an alumni tailgate in the morning and a packed house of nearly 3,000 fans by noon kickoff. After a back-and-forth showdown that featured multiples twists, the Battling Bishops would escape with a 32-28 victory.
The schools have now split four matchups since resuming the non-conference series, with Otterbein taking the initial two and OWU now posting back-to-back wins. There was no matchup last season.
HOW IT HAPPENED THIS TIME:
- The Cardinals found themselves trailing 17-7 midway through the second quarter, with the only points coming on a 69-yard scoop and score defensive touchdown by safety Caleb Rice. That came after Jalen Perry forced a fumble on the home sideline.
- Otterbein used that momentum to finish the second quarter strong, marching 62 yards in just six plays on the next drive. Bryce Hall found freshman Robert Jordan on a long toss, and followed with a 10-yard touchdown slant to Jalan Minney on third down.
- Caleb Meade then buried a 34-yard field goal to end the half following a timely fourth-down stop by the defense. Ohio Wesleyan held a 17-16 lead at the break.
- Otterbein jumped in front toward the end of the third frame, all part of a 16-0 scoring run. This time, a workmanlike 13-play drive ended with Hall finding tight end Job Jones across the middle. A two-point conversion failed, leaving the Cards ahead 22-17.
- Both sides traded scores from that point. OWU hit a long touchdown pass, Otterbein responded with another Hall-to-Jones connection, and the Bishops found nine-straight points to assume the 32-28 lead with 3:36 remaining.
- A huge 45-yard burst from Siraj Muhammad put Otterbein down within striking distance, but the drive stalled (following a few incomplete passes) despite some prime opportunities. The fourth-down attempt hit the ground in a crowded endzone with players jockeying for position.
- Otterbein did see one final chance, holding possession around midfield with 45 seconds left before the effort came up short.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE:
- The teams had nearly identical outputs in total offense, as the Cards finished with a narrow 443-442 advantage. Otterbein was a decent 40 percent on third down.
- Muhammad rushed 23 times for 147 yards while Jones had a career day. The senior caught 11 passes for 114 yards and two scores.
- Minney and Jordan combined for another 11 catches.
- Hall finished 26 of 41 for 295 yards, tossing three touchdowns but also a pair of interceptions.
- Perry led the Cards with 10 tackles while Greg Nolder and Max Walden each made nine stops.
- Trey Dixon and T.J. Weems were a consistent two-headed monster in the backfield for Ohio Wesleyan, combining for 179 yards on 34 carries.
Otterbein will stay at home to begin Ohio Athletic Conference play, hosting Baldwin Wallace next Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
COURTESY OTTERBEIN ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS