Ohio Wesleyan senior quarterback Dominick Orsini spent much of the day watching from the Ohio Wesleyan sideline and trying to stay ready.
With the game on the line, Orsini got his chance and made the most of his only time on the field with a 58-yard touchdown run to send the Battling Bishops to a 25-17 NCAC victory over Kenyon Saturday afternoon at Selby Stadium.
“I knew that I was going to get my shot with this game being close,” Orsini said. “I got my opportunity and took it.”
OWU (2-3, 2-2 NCAC) ran the ball on each of the seven plays on the winning drive and Orsini carried three times for 65 yards on the 80-yard series, which was good for the team lead in rushing for the game.
He went right on the snap and freshman wide receiver Justin Lowry, who has yet to make his first collegiate catch, sprang him with a cut-back block on the edge.
Orsini did the rest.
The extra point was blocked straight into the air and caught by junior tackle Ryan Ehrhardt, who ran it in for a two-point conversion, putting the Bishops ahead 25-17 with 5:23 remaining.
Orsini doesn’t mind the quarterback competition.
“We’ve been competing every day in practice,” Orsini said. “It’s just one of those things where we’re pushing each other to get better.”
He put the team ahead of himself.
“You can hear it and you can feel sorry for yourself, but being a senior and seeing the potential that this team has – it was just going out there and doing the best that you can,” Orsini said. “It’s disappointing when you hear (that you’re not going to be the starter), but at the same time, you gotta be ready because it’s next man up.”
Jax Harville played against Wittenberg in the second game of the year, but it was brief. He led the Bishops to their first win the next week at Oberlin.
“Both are very different,” OWU coach Tom Watts said. “(Harville) is more of a pocket, throwback type and (Orsini) is more of a pound and ground. I think it’s hard from a defensive perspective when you have two very different quarterbacks – they have to come in with two different game plans.”
Harville had a solid day overall, but showed some moments of inexperience. He finished 21-for-40 for 229 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, both of which were thrown in Kenyon territory including one in the end zone.
Watts maintains that nothing has been decided at the quarterback position.
“I think some people look at (Saturday’s game) and think Jax is the guy,” Watts said. “We went with Jax because of our game plan and (Kenyon was) doing a very good job of stopping that game plan, which is why we went with Dom (down the stretch).”
Harville’s top target was senior wide receiver Ross Hickenbottom, who caught 13 passes totaling 177 yards, three receptions short of the school record shared by Jermar Rayford (2010) and Calvin Cagney (2012).
“He’s a tough kid,” Watts said. “He’s a warrior, he’s a competitor — he’s that go-to guy — been that guy since he was a freshman.”
Ten of those catches came in the first half, including a 52-yard touchdown with 10:36 left in the second to give the Bishops the early 7-0 lead.
“I just saw that the safety was biting a little bit and I just figured that I could beat him over the top,” Hickenbottom said.
Hickenbottom caught four of Harville’s five completions as OWU drove 59 yards before a Tim Shadoan 33-yard field goal broke a 7-7 tie with 2 seconds left before halftime.
“We get great time-ups in practice – we have a lot of reps with (Harville) and Dom,” Hickenbottom said. “So, it really doesn’t matter, they’re interchangeable. (Harville and I) were just clicking today; I can’t really explain it.”
Shadoan followed that with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening kick of the second half to push the lead to 17-7.
Kenyon (3-3, 2-3 NCAC) opened the fourth with two quick scores to tie the game. Szabi Simo kicked a 31-yard field goal with 14:49 left and Thomas Merkle found Brian Hunca on the right sideline for a 68-yard touchdown with 11:08 remaining.
Merkle finished 28-for-51 for 305 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions and Hunca led the way with nine catches for 135 yards. Merkle also rushed for a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
OWU held the Lords to 29 yards rushing on 34 attempts and sacked Merkle four times, led by Beau Michel’s two. Freshman cornerback Torii Hilbert had seven tackles, three pass breakups and an interception for the Bishops.
Next up, the Bishops host Hiram Saturday at 1 p.m.
Ohio Wesleyan 5, Wittenberg 0.
Ohio Wesleyan def. Oberlin 25-15, 25-22, 25-19.
Ohio Wesleyan 5, Earlham 0.
Wittenberg 1, Ohio Wesleyan 0.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.