It’s been over 300 days since the Wabash football team last played on Frank Navarro Field in Little Giant Stadium. That streak comes to an end at 2:00 P.M. on Saturday, September 23, when the Little Giants take on Oberlin for their annual Homecoming game. Wabash enters the matchup with a 1-1 overall record while Oberlin posts a 1-2 record (0-1 NCAC).
The Little Giants come into this game fired up and keen on a victory after suffering a 47-21 loss to the Division I Butler Bulldogs. Regardless of the final score, the game never felt quite out of hand. After an early 21-0 deficit early in the second, Wabash fought back and was only down 10 at halftime with a score of 24-14. Early in the fourth, the lead was only 12 for the Bulldogs, but a big play by both Butler’s offense and defense put the game out of reach for the Little Giants.
Oberlin is coming off a 70-0 blowout loss at home from Denison to open up their conference slate. They barely scraped together over 100 yards of total offense for the game while their defense allowed over 500 yards.
The Yeomen have something to cheer about, however. Two weeks ago, they snapped a 13-game losing streak dating back to 2021
when they held off a late come- back attempt to beat Concordia University Chicago 37-35.
Saturday will be the 27th matchup between the Yeomen and Little Giants, and the 23rd since Wabash joined the NCAC. In last year’s matchup in Oberlin, Ohio, Head Football Coach Don Morel and company walked away with a resounding 66-20 victory. This brought Wabash’s overall record in the series to 23-2-1, including an active 9-game win streak.
The Wabash offense dominated from start to finish in the 2022 game, with a balanced attack between run and pass. Wabash finished with 375 yards passing and 292 yards rushing for a total of 667 yards compared to Oberlin’s 261. The defense was stout as well, forcing one turnover, eight punts, and a 25% 3rd-down conversion percentage by the Oberlin offense.
This year, the offense wants to get back to the historic success of last year. Currently averaging 25.0 points per game this season and in the middle of the pack of NCAC offensive leaders, Wabash will look to dominate a bottom- feeder Oberlin defense that currently sits ninth out of nine teams in the conference in defensive efficiency to help get them back on track offensively.
Regardless of the relatively slow start, Morel thinks that this year’s offense is something special. “We are a better team than we were last year,” said Morel. “Overall, we are in a good space in all three phases of the game.”
To succeed versus the Yeomen, Morel wants the Little Giants to “start fast on offense and defense.” He also pays respect to the sophistication of the Oberlin defense.
“Oberlin gives various looks on defense and we can’t get confused by their different alignments and coverages,” said Morel.
Defensively, watch for the Wabash run defense to make a statement against a fourth-ranked NCAC Oberlin ground attack. Wabash currently sits last in the NCAC in run defense after two games, so stopping the run on first and second downs will be a major key to success for the Little Giants.
Defensive Coordinator Mike Ridings is ready to penetrate the formationally complex Oberlin run attack with a quite simple gameplan.
“It all comes down to fitting the gaps and tackling,” Ridings said. “They have a really good running back that had a couple of big runs last year, so our defense needs to be cleaned up, definitely.”
Ridings also likes the mentality of his guys after the loss to Butler.
“Our communication and growth have been great this week,” said Ridings. “They’re hungry and ready to prove something [after the loss]. That was a playoff-type game.”
This week all comes down to one major key for the defense: dominating the line of scrimmage.
To serve as the halftime entertainment during the game, the 2022-23 Wabash wrestling team will be honored for their 10th- place finish in the NCAA championships last year. Included in this team were National Champion Jack Heldt ’23 in the 285lb division and All-American Chase Bascek ’25 in the 184lb division.
Wabash has won 19 of the last 20 Homecoming matchups dating back to 2002, with their only loss in that period being last year’s heartbreaker against Denison. A win Saturday would cap off yet another successful Homecoming week for the Little Giants, kick-starting their long trip through the NCAC this fall.