By: Ryan Gasser, sports information director
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Bernlohr Stadium turned into an old western film because the Polar Bears of Ohio Northern University and the Capital University Crusaders were in a heated, gun slinging battle from start to finish. The Crusaders' passing game was back to form and 1,000 yards of total offense was accumulated between the two teams. When the dust settled, the Polar Bears remained standing with the win, 49-46.
The Crusaders offense marked multiple individual career firsts over the course of the game, and the first of those came on the opening Crusader drive. After forcing Ohio Northern to punt Capital then took nine plays to cover 70 yards and land in the end zone. A brand new name was introduced to the touchdown line of the stat sheet when senior quarterback Thomas Wibbeler tossed a fade pattern to freshman tight end Kameron Lee (Piqua, Ohio/Lehman Catholic). Lee went up and came back down with six points and his first career reception and touchdown catch as a Crusader. Sophomore Blake Middleton's point-after touchdown attempt was good, and Capital took an early 7-0 lead out of the gate.
Capital and Ohio Northern then traded scores before the end of the first quarter. The Zanesville Connection was alive and well between Wibbeler and senior wide receiver Dartavious Stanford (Zanesville, Ohio/Zanesville). CU's second touchdown came by way of a successful pass and catch on a drag route through the back of the end zone between the dynamic duo.
Ohio Northern came back to score a pair of touchdowns before the end of the half to take a 21-14 lead, its first of the game. Middleton then booted his fourth field goal of the year from 22 yards away to make for a four-point game, 21-17, going into the locker room.
The Crusaders came out of the locker room with its offense running on all cylinders. Wibbeler and junior wide receiver David Barnett (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) set up the score with receptions of 18, 25, and 14 yards but then sophomore quarterback Andrew Ray (Troy, Ohio/Troy), who had been running option-style plays throughout the game, cocked back his arm and lobbed a seven-yard pass to the near pylon. Barnett wrestled with an Ohio Northern defender and stripped the ball away from him then landed in bounds to complete the touchdown grab. That brought the Crusaders within four points, 28-24.
Ohio Northern was quick to retaliate and did so after that and the next Crusader touchdown. Down 35-24 after a 30-yard ONU touchdown pass, Wibbeler cut into the 11-point deficit with a 46-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Evin Butler (Dayton, Ohio/Dayton Christian). Butler slipped out of the backfield and Wibbeler hit him with a floater that led him straight down the sideline and into the end zone. The score stood 35-32 in favor of ONU at that time and led into the fourth quarter that way, but it did not stay that way for long.
Capital's defense stepped up after the momentum shifting score when facing a third and 11, ONU quarterback was sacked by freshman linebacker Bryce Johnson (Huntingdon, Tenn./Huntingdon). Johnson shot up the middle and took Anthony McFadden down for an 11-yard loss and forced a punt. The Crusaders then spent the next 4:23 driving down the field and a 25-yard reception by Barnett set up the first play of the fourth quarter, a go-ahead touchdown pass between Wibbeler and Stanford. Wibbeler lobbed up a pass short of the far pylon where Stanford got his hands on it, bobbled it, then secured it before landing in the end zone for the touchdown.
With Capital having retaken the lead, 39-35, Ohio Northern came up with another big play and retook the lead following a 47-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Marks. Capital was forced to punt on its next drive but junior Wyatt Pertuset drove a 47-yard blast to force a fair catch inside the 20-yard line.
However, the Capital offense was not to be silenced. Now down 10 and without Barnett due to an injury, Capital had to muster up a drive to keep their hopes alive. Stanford became the workhorse of the drive, making four catches, three for more than 10 yards and first downs. Ohio Northern was called for roughing the passer to turn what would have been a third and 10 into a first down. Two plays later, Wibbeler hit Lee on an in route and despite a big hit after the catch Lee held on to the ball to complete the six-yard touchdown play. Middleton's PAT clanged off the left upright, but still went through for the extra point.
Down just three points, 49-46, the Crusaders had three minutes to make its final move. The onside kick attempt was unsuccessful and ONU began its final drive just short of midfield. The defense had the Polar Bear's backs against the fall and induced a fourth-and-four situation. However, ONU quarterback Anthony McFadden hit Chad Rex for an eight-year gain over the middle to move the sticks. With 1:30 to, the Crusaders were out of timeouts and the Polar Bears ran out the clock to secure the win.
Wibbeler finished with 464 yards passing and five touchdowns without having thrown an interception. He leaped Shawn Wheeler (1996-99) for second all-time in total offense and now has 6,582 yards to his name.
Stanford jumped up three spots in the CU career receiving yards category and into the top five for career touchdown catches. With his 12 catches and 143 yards, he now has 1,850 career yards which ranks him sixth all-time, and his two touchdown catches give him 20 in his career rising him to fourth all-time.
Three Crusaders finished with 100 yards receiving. Before exiting, Barnett had made eight catches, one for a touchdown, and finished with 139 yards. He now sits third all-time in career receiving yards with 2,332. Butler finished with 100 on the dot on his seven catches and one touchdown.
Kameron Lee's first two collegiate catches both went for touchdowns and totaled 15 yards.
Capital's defense sacked McFadden three times with Kole Carter, Michael Lauofo (Miamisburg, Ohio/Miamisburg) and Bryce Johnson, the first of Johnson's career. Lauofo also led the team with 10 tackles, four solo, and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Capital (0-7, 0-6 OAC) will now gear up for its annual rivalry showdown with Otterbein University. This year the best rivalry in Ohio college football will take place at Memorial Stadium in Westerville, Ohio on Saturday, October 27 at 1:30 p.m.