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The Wabash football team opened up season play at Byron P. Hollett Little Giant Stadium for a final time on Saturday with a 34-20 win over Denison on Homecoming.
With the score tied 20-20 and the Big Red driving across midfield, Patrick Kelly picked off Drew Dawkins and the Little Giants took over at their own 29 with 6:13 to play, before Liam Thompson found Cooper Sullivan for the second time on a 27-yard strike to give Wabash the lead for good.
Wabash trailed 17-13 midway through the third quarter and with Denison marching down the field, Jackson Garrett intercepted Dawkins, and Thompson hooked up with Sullivan from 40 yards out to push the Little Giants ahead 20-17 with 10:49 to play, before the Big Red responded with a field goal.
“Our defense gets ragged on all the time,” Wabash coach Don Morel said. “The fact of life is we were out here against a really good offense and we gave up 20 points. They had been averaging 50 a game. Truth be told our defense is really good. We bend, but don’t break, and end the end we got the critical turnover that won the game for us.”
Kelly picked off another Dawkins pass in the final minutes, only to watch Isaac Avant end the game with a 64 yard scamper to the end zone.
“The patience of Isaac Avant,” Morel said. “He waited the whole game and knew he was going to go in on the last series and end the game. He didn’t play much all game, but when he went in he ended it and that was great.”
Avant led the Little Giants (2-1, 2-0 NCAC) with 111 yards rushing on just seven carries.
Wabash Defense Just Good Enough
While Wabash out-gained Denison (2-1, 1-1), the defending NCAC co-champions 521-423, the Big Red rushed for 277 yards, and behind Alex Minton’s 188 yards on 27 carries at times looked unstoppable.
Along with the three second half interceptions, the Wabash defense generated just enough stops to allow the offense to win the game. Denison took the ball into the red zone six times, and came away with just 13 points.
“The kind of offense they run once they get it down there tight they kind of become pretty limited,” Morel said. “They are a great team 20-to-20 and we knew that and planned for it, and I thought we did a great job.”
The freshman duo of quarterback Liam Thompson and receiver Cooper Sullivan continued to impress on Saturday. Including the two long touchdowns, Thompson hooked up with Sullivan seven times for 168 yards.
“First day I met him we hit it off immediately,” Sullivan said about his QB. “We hang out all the time. I love the kid to death and he ‘s definitely going to be one of my brothers for life. I love his work ethic, always in the weight room.”
Sullivan, who now has 12 catches for 266 yards and two scores arrived at Wabash this summer from Jacksonville, Florida, where he was a standout at The Bolles School.
“To be honest with you, coming from Florida, Florida football is a little different so I feel like when I was in high school that prepared me a lot and I just come out here and do my thing,” Sullivan said.
Thompson, a freshman from North Central in Indianapolis, now has 698 yards passing and four touchdowns, including 311 yards passing and another 37 yards rushing on Saturday.
“I would ask a rhetorical question,” Morel said. “Does he look like a freshman quarterback out there? I don’t think he does. He’s just solid as a rock and he’s really going to be fun to watch here for the next four years.”
Wabash will return home at 1 p.m. next Saturday against Ohio Wesleyan, who improved to 4-0 with a 28-10 win over Allegheny on Saturday.