CRAWFORDSVILLE, IN-In a much anticipated season opener between two Top-25 teams, it was 16th ranked Wabash that protected its home turf, defeating #21 Hampden-Sydney 34-21 in the inaugural 'Gentlemen's Classic.'
The Tigers (0-1, 0-0 ODAC), who averaged just shy of 450 yards-per-game last season, were held to just 242 yards of offense in the effort. Wabash's (1-0, 0-0 NCAC) offense produced 321 yards, while its defense forced three turnovers – one for a score.
The Little Giants fired right back, using 11 plays and 5:19 to drive 69 yards, capped off by a Tyler Holmes four-yard run, to tie the game.
After traded punts, Hampden-Sydney took its fourth drive into the second quarter, and finished off a six play drive with Nance finding pay dirt on a goal line push.
The Tiger defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, but four plays later, Ethan Buresh picked off Nance and returned the turnover 41 yards for the game-tying touchdown.
Wabash's defense used its momentum to force a punt from the Tigers on the next drive, which was downed at the Wabash 49-yard line. Wabash found itself in the red zone, but the Tiger defense stood strong, and forced a 39-yard field goal from Andrew Tutsie to give the Little Giants their first lead, 17-14 with just over five minutes remaining in the half.
The Little Giants controlled the third quarter, scoring ten points while possessing the ball for just over 13 minutes.
The Tigers, behind Freddie Potter (Haymarket, VA/Battlefield), got a big fourth-and-one stop on Wabash's first drive, but the Little Giants notched a touchdown on its second drive – a 26-yard touchdown pass from Michael Putko to Houston Hodges.
Hampden-Sydney fumbled on its next drive, and Wabash capitalized with a 29-yard field goal from Tutsie.
Wabash tacked on one more score on its first drive of the fourth quarter, going up 34-14 while driving 68 yards in 11 plays and 4:31 minutes.
Two drives later, the Tigers found the end zone again, with Walker catching his second touchdown of the day, this time from 34 yards out.
Senior Brady Macko (Kill Devil Hills, NC/First Flight) led the Tiger rushing attack with 45 yards on nine carries, averaging 5.0 yards-per-carry.
Nance on the day was 24-of-37 for 247 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Walker had game-highs of ten catches, 168 yards, and two scores. Fuller Clark (Roanoke, VA/North Cross) caught four passes, and Owen Costello (South Riding, VA/Paul VI), Craige Sprouse (Richmond, VA/Clover Hill), Joey Kernan (Derwood, MD/Gonzaga), and Joey Druhan (Purcellville, VA/Loudoun Valley) all had two catches.
Defensively, the Tigers were led by Robert Stack (Charlotte, NC/Merchant Marine) who tallied 14 tackles and two sacks for a loss of 15 yards. Larry Haskins (Buckingham, VA/Fuqua) and Josh Doggett (Mechanicsville, VA/Hanover) recorded 11 and ten tackles, respectively.
The Little Giants had a balanced running attack, with Tyler Holmes (21 car.; 60 yds), Michael Putko (18 car.; 59 yds), and Mason Zurek (13 car.; 45 yds) leading the way. Putko was 15-of-22 passing for 134 yards and a touchdown. Only three receivers caught passes for Wabash with Houston Hodges having a team-high nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Austin Brown led the way with ten tackles and two tackles-for-loss. Preseason All-American Cody Buresh notched six stops, three for loss, two sacks, while forcing and recovering one fumble.
Hampden-Sydney returns to action Saturday, September 13 as the Tigers host Christopher Newport University in their 2014 home opener. Kickoff is set for 1:00 pm.