Freshman kicker Gabe Philhower could have exuded chesty machismo after booting the game-winning field goal to give the Ohio Wesleyan football team a 9-7 victory over visiting Wooster Saturday afternoon at Selby Stadium.
But, he took the road less traveled. He admitted that the blocked go-ahead field goal in the final seconds of OWU’s season-opening loss at Otterbein two weeks ago was on his mind.
He took a deep breath, planted and swung through on a 27-yard field goal with 18 seconds left to lift he Battling Bishops in the North Coast Athletic Conference opener.
“(My) legs kind of went numb for a second and my heart was pounding in my chest,” Philhower said. “Yeah, I was (thinking about two weeks ago). But, I wasn’t going to let that happen – that’s for sure. I knew I just had to time it up right and I knew it was going to go through the uprights because I knew I had a good holder (Sasoun Tcholakian).”
“He probably had some flashbacks,” OWU coach Tom Watts said. “That probably solves that issue. He knows he can do it.”
Philhower accounted for all nine points, booting a 22-yard field goal on OWU’s opening drive, which started after sophomore Kor’Darius Melton strip-sacked Wooster QB Caden Croft. David Praul recovered at Wooster’s 9.
“Our defense played lights out – they were tough,” Watts said. “That’s a good offense and we stopped them.”
Melton filled the stat sheet for the Bishop defense, collecting 10 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“My brothers prepared for this game and our coaches prepared us for this game,” Melton said. “I got the tackle off his feet and (got) into his head and was able to make plays all day.”
Philhower also booted a 20-yard field goal as time expired on the first-half clock to pull the Bishops within 7-6 at the break.
Wooster had taken the lead on a Mateo Renteria 15-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Lewis with 4:41 left in the half, which capped a 16-play, 90-yard drive.
OWU’s defense bent a little, but ultimately didn’t break, forcing four turnovers – all fumbles.
Natrone Barnes recovered two of those fumbles after picking off two passes and recovering a fumble in the opener at Otterbein two weeks ago.
He recovered his second fumble at the OWU 16 with 4:46 left, stopping a potentially game-sealing drive for the Scots.
The Bishop offense responded with its best drive of the day – a 14-play, 74-yard effort to set up Philhower’s game-winner.
Otherwise, it was not a good day at the office offensively. OWU managed just 214 yards of total offense, including minus-2 in the running game harmed by nine sacks by the Wooster defense.
“We were trying to do a lot of drop-backs and put some pressure on them,” Watts said. “They’re good up front and we know that about them.”
Jax Harville went 24-for-38 for 216 yards, but lost 62 yards on the ground to offset efforts by his running backs Trey Dixon (11 carries for 40 yards) and Jesse Beachy (eight carries for 21 yards).
It wasn’t necessarily all on (the offensive line) – we’ve gotta get quicker reads by our quarterback,” Watts said. “But, we’ve gotta shore up the front a little bit. We have the guys – they’ve done it, they’ve shown it – they just have to play more consistently together for us.”
Harville found seven different receivers on the day, led by Deji Adebiyi with seven catches for 57 yards.
Cody Streit led the Bishops (1-1, 1-0) with 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble and Lucas Cooper chipped in 10 tackles, including one for a loss.
Renteria, one of three quarterbacks in action for the Scots (1-2, 0-2), went 18-for-24 for 162 yards and a touchdown and Antonio Bailey added 69 yards on the ground on 22 carries.
Nick Stausbaugh had a game-high 84 yards receiving on six catches and Antonio Bailey hauled in nine balls for 53 yards.
Marcus Bowers, D’Andre Brown and Kellen Calhoun had two sacks apiece, Mark Herron finished with nine tackles and Cam Pollard broke up three passes to lead Wooster on defense.
Next up, OWU continues conference play at Allegheny Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
DePauw 6, Ohio Wesleyan 3
John Carroll 1, Ohio Wesleyan 0
Ohio Wesleyan 3, Franklin 0; Otterbein 3, Ohio Wesleyan 1
Ohio Wesleyan 4, Defiance 0
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.