DELAWARE – The special teams turned in a special performance to lead the Ohio Wesleyan football team to a 19-10 NCAC win over Denison Saturday afternoon at Selby Stadium.
The Battling Bishops blocked two punts and returned a kickoff for a touchdown and it was all they needed to hold off a strong rushing attack by the visiting Big Red.
“The kickoff return and two blocked punts was a big thing,” OWU coach Tom Watts said. “We didn’t play very good special teams last week, so this was a big emphasis for us.”
It was the first victory over the Big Red since 2012 for the Bishops.
OWU also kept alive its NCAC title hopes, though Wabash clinched at least a share with a 24-0 win over DePauw Saturday. The Bishops (7-2, 6-2) need DePauw to knock of the Little Giants this Saturday to have a chance to tie.
OWU managed just 111 yards in the win over Denison and all 19 points came because of the special teams.
Joe Lapone blocked a punt late in the second quarter to set up a Justin Reis 19-yard touchdown pass to Justin Lowry to tie the game 7-7 with 2:20 remaining in the half. OWU had 1 yard of total offense before the score.
Trey Dixon returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to give the Bishops a 14-10 lead.
Lucas Cooper blocked another punt out of the back of the end zone to push the lead to 16-10 and Anthony Sanfillipo added a 22-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to push the lead to 19-10 with 11:59 left in the game.
Denison had leaned on its running back for much of the game. Alex Minton had 34 carries for 225 yards and a touchdown through the first three quarters.
But once the Big Red fell behind by two scores, Minton became a non-factor. He only had three carries for 12 yards in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a really good football player – he’s one of the best players in the conference,” Watts said. “I’m proud of the guys … I’d take our defense over anybody.”
Minton, who came into the game as the NCAC’s leading rusher by a wide margin, had his biggest rushing day of the season and now has 1,291 yards on the ground this season ahead of Isaac Avant of Wabash, who has 771 yards.
“He was a really good running back,” linebacker Cody Streit said. “We just had to get him on the ground as quick as possible.”
Drew Dawkins went 14-for-46 for 191 yards and two interceptions and Andrew Smith had eight tackles on defense to lead the Big Red (7-2, 6-2).
Zane Ries was 8-for-18 for 112 yards and a touchdown and Lowry caught two passes for 56 yards to lead OWU.
Streit had 18 tackles and two for-loss, including 1.5 sacks, and Shane Quin had 14 tackles and a half-sack to lead the Bishops.
Pat Kramer kicked a 40-yard field goal with no time on the clock to give the Big Red a 10-7 lead at the break.
OWU closes the season at Wittenberg Saturday at 1 p.m.