Austin Brown and Ryan Walters each returned interceptions for touchdowns and the Wabash football team rolled to a 51-0 win over Oberlin on Homecoming.
The Little Giants were dominant on both sides of the ball, sprinted out to a 44-0 halftime lead, and the bench preserved the shutout to improve to 4-1 on the year.
"We're becoming more efficient and disciplined, and I feel like this team is getting better every week," said head coach Don Morel.
Senior quarterback Connor Rice connected with Kirby Cox on a 40-yard bomb early in the game that set up the next play — a screen pass to running back Matt Penola, who weaved his way into the end zone from 29 yards out for the game's first score.
Minutes later, Wabash mounted its best drive of the game, mixing the pass and run for an 11-play, 72- yard drive. Rice hit receivers Sammy Adams and Drake Christen for 16 and 15 yards, and later found tight end Dylan Buresh for 13 more. The drive ended when Penola took a handoff and flipped it to Christen, who walked into the end zone from six yards out to make 14-0 just nine minutes into the contest.
After missing his first two passes, Rice was razor-sharp and hit five in a row. He finished 7-of-12 for 164 yards and a touchdown.
"We had good field position and took advantage of being in a short field today," said Morel. "Certainly, our seniors stepped up big for us. Connor Rice was very efficient again, Shamir Johnson played well, and Drake Christen made a big play for us on the end around."
Oberlin mustered a drive to midfield before senior safety Austin Brown stepped in front of Zach Taylor's sideline pass and raced 53 yards for the touchdown, giving Wabash a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
Inspired, the defense forced a quick three-and-out, and on the ensuing drive, Rice hit Adams for 25 yards to set up a one-yard touchdown run by Penola.
Wabash's defense continued to bring the heat. Facing fourth-and six at its own 25 yard-line, the punt snap sailed over Ian Schmitzerle's head, resulting in a safety and a 30-0 Wabash lead.
The Little Giants slammed the door when Ryan Walters stepped into Taylor's pass toward the Wabash sideline. Walters intercepted the ball in full stride and walked into the end zone for a 37-0 lead.
Two minutes later, senior defensive lineman Connor Ludwig hammered running back Chuck Williams to force a fumble, which Wabash recovered at the Oberlin 42. A 37-yard Rice-to-Christen bomb gave Wabash first down at the one. Shamir Johnson, who played only sparingly, trotted in from a yard out to give Wabash its 44-0 halftime lead.
The Little Giants played all reserves for the entire second half. Sophomore quarterback Austin Nightingale orchestrated a nifty 9-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter. Isaac Avant and Bobby Blum traded duties at running back, but it was Nightingale's 37-yard keeper that brought the fans to their feet. Blum carried five straight times and scored from a yard out for the Little Giants' final touchdown of the day.
Oberlin threatened to score late in the game, but Luke Kseniak sacked Taylor on second down at the Wabash 8-yard-line, and Dallas Pitts Jr. made a key stop on fourth down to preserve the shutout.
"Defensively, a shutout is a shutout and those are just hard to get no matter who you are playing," Morel said. "Really, a tremendous effort by our team defensively."
The blanking was the first for first-year defensive coordinator Jeff Ramsey, the former head coach at Oberlin.
Wabash doubled the visitors in total yardage, gaining 427 yards to Oberlin's 207. Kseniak led the defense with six tackles and a sack, while Evan Hansen and Jaleel Grandberry each had five tackles.
Nightingale, Avant, and Blum each gained 47 yards to pace the running game, while Johnson and Penola added 34 and 33, respectively.
Wabash travels to Kenyon next week before returning home to host Wooster on October 22.