Quakers come up short in heartbreaker 13-12

WILMINGTON — In a game that featured less than 500 combined yards, Baldwin Wallace University escaped Townsend Field Saturday with a 13-12 victory over the Wilmington College football team in the Ohio Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

“Going into this game, we knew it was going to be a four-quarter game,” WC head coach Corey Fillipovich said. “We went four quarters with them for the first time in a while. For our program to see that happen and be right there at the last second, displays how far we’ve come and how bright the future can be.”

Baldwin-Wallace was picked second in the OAC in the preseason coaches poll, behind only Mount Union.

Neither offense got anything going on the first two drives. The only first down for either side, in fact, came on a Yellow Jacket pass interference penalty as quarterback Adam Dixon was looking for Itika Wynn Jr. The Fightin’ Quakers turned it over three plays later near midfield. A pass breakup from cornerback Jalaun Covington on fourth down stalled the next BW drive, and after two three-and-outs followed, punter Derrick Larimer pinned the Yellow Jackets inside their own 10.

After a run for minimal gain, Jon Murray Jr., BW’s fifth-year senior running back, fumbled as Zac Schmidt got his hands on the football, and Trafford Dunn recovered. Two rushes put the Quakers at the 4. However, a sack on third down forced a field goal, which Seth Best converted to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.

Wilmington’s defense forced another three-and-out as the second quarter began, and the Quaker offense put together their best offensive possession of the game. The drive spanned 72 yards on a dozen plays and included a fourth-and-13 conversion from Dixon to Gavin Foushee that setup a Ben Hobbs score two plays later.

Leading 10-0, the Wilmington defense once again forced a three-and-out, but Dixon was intercepted on the first play of the ensuing drive, and it was returned for a touchdown. After the next several drives failed to go anywhere, Wilmington got the ball at its own 2 with 4:56 to play in the first half. Dixon found Ace Taylor to move the chains on one third down and hit Lathan Jones for a 52-yard strike on third-and-18 a few plays later.

Wilmington pounded forward with Hobbs for six yards to setup second-and-goal from the 3, but what followed was a momentum-changing sequence. The BW defense held on three straight plays to stop WC from pay dirt. After the turnover on downs, Murray Jr. looked to be stopped for a safety, but the line judge ruled the ball down at the 1. On the next play, the final of the half, Murray Jr. broke loose for 45 yards and would have scored a touchdown if it wasn’t for the shoe-string tackle of Covington near midfield.

“They were bringing a lot of pressure, and Adam [Dixon] hung in there,” Fillipovich said. “We felt as a staff the correct call was to go for it there at the end of the half. If you’re going to beat a team like Baldwin Wallace, you have to take some risks. That one just didn’t pan out for us.”

The Yellow Jackets turned up the defense pressure and allowed less than 100 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes. The visitors also changed quarterbacks, from starter Joey Marousek to Reese Wamer, and that seemed to give BW better offensive rhythm. The Yellow Jackets put together their best drive of the game on the final full drive of the third quarter, going 84 yards in 10 plays and scoring on a keeper from Wamer. The point-after attempt, however, hit the uprights and BW led 13-10.

A quick three-and-out followed for the Quakers and BW drove into scoring position again, but a Dean Sarris field goal attempt was wide left, and the score remained 13-10. A sack stalled Wilmington’s next drive, but the home defense forced an incompletion as Jacob Quinn and Jarod Lee hurried the quarterback. On the punt, the snap went over Dylan Kooyman’s head for a safety, pulling the hosts within a point.

Wilmington’s drive started at its own 35 and the Quakers drove into Yellow Jacket territory. After offsetting penalties on fourth-and-two, Dixon’s pass to Taylor was batted down. Baldwin Wallace ran the clock out on the next drive.

BW gained 230 yards and Wilmington 215. The 230 yards surrendered by the Wilmington defense is the fewest in a game since a 49-7 win at Earlham in 2018 and the fewest in an OAC contest in more than a decade.

“There’s a lot of guys that have played a lot of football for us on the defensive side of the ball,” said Fillopovich. “You can start to see the experience that unit has. They played great and I’m so proud of them.”

Dixon finished 15-of-39 for 187 yards and two interceptions while Hobbs ran 18 times for 50 yards and a touchdown. Six of Dixon’s passes were caught by Taylor for 67 yards while Jones had the one long catch for 52 yards.

Defensively, Jarod Lee had 10 tackles for Wilmington while Schmidt had nine and Jack Sheriff eight. Covington and fellow cornerback Quentin Davis both had two pass breakups.

Wilmington (1-1, 0-1 OAC) hosts Otterbein University on Homecoming Weekend Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.