Pull Out Win Over Denison, Finish 3-7
By Colin Smith
When all was said and done, it was a good way to
After falling behind early, the Yeoman football team overcame four
different deficits, a slew of penalties and some drizzly, miserable
weather en route to a 30-22 victory over North Coast Athletic Conference
rival Denison University in the season’s final game last Saturday.
“They say the last game’s the one you remember,”
defensive end Steve Barlow, one of the team’s three seniors,
said. “This is what I’m going to look back to the rest
of my life.”
The win over the Big Red earned Oberlin a 3-7 overall record, its
best since 1989, when the Yeomen were 4-6. Oberlin also finished
in a tie with Ohio Wesleyan University for sixth in the NCAC with
a 3-4 conference mark, the best since going 3-3 in 1984, the conference’s
first year of play.
After a slow start, senior quarterback Chris Moffatt had one of
the best games of his career on Saturday while running an option
offense. He completed 17 of 30 pass attempts to compile 293 yards
and three touchdowns through the air. Moffatt also got it done on
the ground as the team’s leading rusher, gaining 64 yards
(75 without sacks).
“I’d never run the option before, so it was nice to
go out with something different,” he said.
The game opened with a truly ugly first half — it seemed neither
team wanted to win for the first 25 minutes. Of Moffatt’s
first seven pass attempts, six fell incomplete and one was intercepted.
Oberlin went for the home run on the game’s first play, with
Moffatt looking deep for sophomore wide receiver Scott Barker, but
the ball was underthrown.
“The first half was just poor execution,” Moffatt said.
Punting was a particular difficulty for both teams, with bad snaps
on each side. One bad snap could have cost Oberlin greatly as it
sailed over junior punter Joseph Lourigan’s head. But Lourigan
raced back to recover the ball, made a terrific play to avoid an
oncoming rusher and got the kick off, even netting 12 yards. (Lourigan
would later run for a first down after a bad long snap, but the
play was called back due to a holding penalty.)
Denison, though, would put the game’s first points on the
board late in the first quarter, on another bad snap. Denison had
gotten a great punt off to pin the Yeomen at their own four. Oberlin
was unable to gain any breathing room and on fourth down, the long
snap waffled through the end zone and out for an automatic safety,
giving the Big Red a 2-0 lead.
“They both snap the ball well,” head coach Jeff Ramsey
said of Oberlin’s pair of long-snappers. “They just
seem to go on spurts of not snapping it well. Thank goodness we
were able to not dig ourselves a hole too deep.”
The level of play finally picked up toward the
end of the half, as Denison was able to sustain a touchdown drive
starting from its own 42 with just over five minutes to play. With
their lead now 8-0, the Big Red opted to go for two. They ended
up getting two chances as the Yeomen were flagged for pass interference
on the first attempt, but the Yeomen came up with the stop on the
second. The Big Red were also aided on the drive by an unsportsmanlike
conduct penalty against Oberlin, another of 14 penalties —
many of them questionable — called against the Yeomen in the
game. Six of those 14 were pass interference calls. Denison, on
the other hand, was only flagged five times.
“At times I felt like we were playing against 13 or 14 guys
out there,” Ramsey said of the lopsided penalty situation.
But the Yeomen didn’t let that stop them.
“Oberlin teams in the past have kind of folded in a situation
like that,” Barlow said, “but we rose to the occasion
and said, ‘we’re not going to let the refs beat us.’”
Sophomore Travis Oman’s 22-yard kickoff return gave the Yeoman
the ball at their own 41 with 1:17 left to work with. In a situation
where they have frequently opted to run out the clock, the Yeomen
instead looked to points on the board. A holding penalty almost
cost them their chance, but huge runs of 14 and 10 yards by Oman
and Moffatt got them a first down at the Big Red 42 with just 18
seconds left to play.
One play later, Moffatt hit Barker coming across the middle and
Barker ran it to the far corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
“I knew where Barker was going and I knew where the safety
was going,” Moffatt said. “When I saw the linebackers
drop I was drooling.”
The beautifully executed play got the team and the fans fired up,
but their spirits were dampened some as Barker was called for an
unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he flipped the ball to the
official after the score. The penalty backed up the extra point
try 15 yards.
“You got me,” Ramsey said when asked about the reasoning
behind the penalty.
Willever, though, kicked it straight down the middle and got the
benefit of a bounce — the ball hit the crossbar and went through
to cut the lead to 8-7 at the end of the half.
Denison came out firing in the second half though,
with Stoll hitting a 44-yard pass on the second play and then a
19-yard touchdown strike two plays later to reclaim an eight-point
Oberlin had an answer, though. On Oberlin’s first play after
the ensuing kickoff, Moffatt hit Barker on a quick slant for 14
yards. After a short run and an incomplete pass, Oberlin faced third
and seven and went deep. Barker got some separation from the coverage
and Moffatt threw a perfectly placed pass right in front of him,
giving Barker a clear run to the end zone.
“The second half [Moffatt] came out and played football,”
Ramsey said. “It was probably the best half I’ve seen
by a quarterback since I’ve been here.”
That score cut the deficit to 15-14 and Oberlin grabbed its first
lead of the game two plays later. Stoll, under heavy Oberlin pressure,
put the ball into the hands of Oberlin first-year linebacker Vance
Murphy, who had no one in his way as he ran the ball down the sideline
for the defensive touchdown.
Denison got a huge field position boost late in the third when a
Big Red defender came in unseen and forced a Moffatt fumble. Denison
recovered at the Oberlin 22. The Yeomen had them at third and 12,
but Stoll scrambled 15 yards for a first down and a late hit out
of bounds penalty put them on the five. Stoll made a touchdown pass
on the next play and the Big Red took the lead again, 22-21.
Sophomore Vinnie Hachigian put the Yeomen right back in good position
with a 38-yard kickoff return. Moffatt hit Barker across the middle
for 23 yards and then kept it for 11. After he was nearly called
for intentional grounding on a second down play, Moffatt hit sophomore
running back Chris Jordan for 10 yards. On first and goal from the
10 Moffatt took it to the two. On second down he faked a handoff,
then threw to wide-open first-year tight end Shawn Brunner.
This time Oberlin went for two, hoping for a seven-point lead, but
Moffatt and Oman fumbled the handoff attempt.
Denison got within scoring range on the ensuing drive thanks to
another pass interference penalty, but junior safety Mark Lengal
made a great play to pick off a Stoll pass in the end zone.
Moffatt led the Yeomen downfield to the six, where Willever nailed
a big insurance field goal to make it 30-22 Oberlin, and Oberlin
Moffatt completed 14 of his last 19 passes for
261 of his yards. Barker finished with 176 yards on eight catches
to go with his two touchdowns, bumping him up to finish tops in
the conference in receiving yards with 714.
Denison did a good job of containing Oberlin’s running back
pair of Oman and Jordan, but Jordan caught four passes for 46 yards
and Oman averaged four-yard a rush on his eight carries. It also
opened the door for Moffatt’s big rushing day with the option
In addition to his crucial interception, Murphy led the team in
tackles with nine and was named NCAC Defensive Player of the Week
for his outing against Denison. Hachigian tallied seven and a half,
including two sacks (one assisted). And senior Steve Barlow went
out with a bang recording two big sacks for 17 yards and another
tackle for a loss, as well as keeping steady pressure on Stoll.
“He made a couple of plays in the backfield that were just
great,” Ramsey said. “He was a dominant force on the
line of scrimmage.”
The team’s only other senior, Devin Heatley, saw action on
special teams, which was particularly special because “nobody
thought he would play football again after his knee injury,”
which occurred during the 2000 season, Ramsey said.
Barlow, Heatley and Moffatt got to finish their careers with a win
at home as part of the best Oberlin team in over a decade.
“The second half was something to be proud of,” Moffatt
said. “It was a great way to go out. It was great to have
my girlfriend and my mom there.”
Both Moffatt and Heatley are now four-year letter winners.
In addition to his success on the field, Barlow
was recognized last week for his achievements off the field. Barlow
was named to the Verizon Academic All-District Second Team by the
College Sports Information Directors of America. Barlow is a politics
major carrying a 3.55 GPA and he plans to attend law school next
“I was able to play football and get a great education —
it’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
The Yeomen finished fourth in the conference in
passing offense even with key receiver sophomore Zach Lewis injured
for most of the season, and they were first in red zone efficiency,
scoring on 31 tries in 38 visits. Steve Willever was far and away
the best NCAC field goal kicker, converting on 11 of 14 chances
for the highest total and the best percentage.
Jordan and Oman combined for 1199 yards rushing, and Moffatt threw
for 1522 over the season. Lengal and junior Ben Franz had four interceptions
apiece, Murphy led the team in tackles with 65.5 and Barlow led
the team with six sacks for a total loss of 40 yards.
Despite their successes, there is still a feeling of disappointment
throughout the team.
“Even though we went 3-7, we had a good time,” Barlow
said. “But we should have been 5-5, maybe even 6-4. It was
good but not as good as it could have been.
Oberlin lost three games this year by a touchdown or less. An area
that the Yeomen will seek to improve next year is winning close
They should be in good position to do that. While the team will
certainly miss the leadership of its seniors, the Yeomen are only
losing three players and will return 24 starters (kickers included).
Next year will be the first time in several years that Oberlin has
had any significant number of seniors, and a strong 2005 class will
be coming into its own as juniors. Oberlin still has many needs
— a lack of depth in particular — that will have to
be filled by a strong recruiting year, but the Yeomen can be expected
to continue to improve.
Barlow, reflecting on his two years in the Oberlin football program,
said, “When I got here, I knew I was coming to a program that
was turning around, but hadn’t made that first step. I hope
I can look back and say that I helped turn it around.”