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Defense Scores Three Touchdowns, Football Defeats Otterbein in OAC Opener

Josh Liberati and Jason Hughes combine for one of Liberati's team-high 10 tackles. (Photo Courtesy of Ed Syguda)
Josh Liberati and Jason Hughes combine for one of Liberati's team-high 10 tackles. (Photo Courtesy of Ed Syguda)

WESTERVILLE, Ohio  –Sparked by three defensive touchdowns, the Baldwin Wallace University football team opened Ohio Athletic Conference action with a 45-28 victory over Otterbein University inside Memorial Stadium.

BW (2-0, 1-0 OAC), who won its sixth league opener in the last seven, improved to 38-12-1 in the all-time series with Otterbein (0-2, 0-1 OAC). 

Offensively for the Yellow Jackets, senior Academic All-Ohio Athletic Conference quarterback A.J. Miller (Coral Springs, Fla./Coral Springs Charter) completed 12-of-28 passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Sophomore All-OAC running back Jon Murray, Jr. (Cincinnati/Withrow) led the ground game as he rushed for 118 yards on 14 carries with a 60-yard touchdown.  Senior wide out Darion Greer (Toledo/Toledo Central Catholic) led the receiving corps with four catches for 51 yards with a long of 35.  Defensively, BW forced five turnovers and scored three touchdowns with nine quarterback hurries, four quarterback sacks and nine tackles for a loss.  Senior two-time captain and linebacker Josh Liberati (Lisbon/David Anderson) led the way with a team-high 10 tackles while sophomore linebacker Nick Pankow (Medina) added a career-high nine stops with 1.5 sacks and two QB hurries.

The Cardinals were led by junior quarterback Bryce Hill as he completed 16-of-28 passes for 212 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.  Sophomore Luke Schmeling led the rushing attack with 97 yards on 12 carries with one touchdown.  Junior Dom Ross led the receivers with three catches for 100 yards with one touchdown.

The Yellow Jackets opened the scoring just 47 seconds into the game when senior defensive lineman Sekou Imani (Dover) sacked Hill and stripped the ball and returned it 11 yards for the score.  Freshman kicker Dean Sarris (Canton/GlenOak) added the extra point.   The BW defense stepped up once again when senior defensive back Jack Bauer (Uniontown/Green) picked off Hill and returned it 60 yards to pay dirt.  Sarris tacked on the point after to give the Yellow Jackets a 14-0 lead at the 10:24 mark.  Otterbein cut the lead down to 14-7 when sophomore All-OAC defensive back Brandon Paschal intercepted Miller and returned it 61 yards for the score at 2:37.  Junior kicker Nate Smith booted the extra point.  BW went up 21-7 when Murray, Jr. broke a 60-yard run for the score at the 1:34 mark.  Sarris added the point after. 

The Yellow Jackets pushed their lead to 28-7 when senior wide receiver Edwin Velasquez (Jupiter, Fla./Jensen Beach) caught his first collegiate pass on an eight-yard pass from Miller at 8:24 of the second quarter.  Sarris tacked on the extra point. The Cardinals scored their first offensive touchdown when Schmeling broke free on an a 56-yard run at the 6:15 mark.  Smith added the point after.  BW scored the final points of the first half when Sarris nailed a career-long 32-yard field goal with 43 seconds left.

The Yellow Jackets wasted no time coming out of the halftime break as sophomore wide receiver Darius Stokes (Canton/GlenOak) caught a 47-yard pass from Miller just 42 seconds into the third quarter.   Sarris hit the extra point.  Otterbein cut the lead down to 38-21 when Hill connected with Ross on a 66-yard scoring play at the 8:39 mark.  Strong added the point after.  BW scored its final defensive touchdown and extended the lead to 45-21when sophomore defensive back Dominick Bowman (Canton/Massillon Perry) picked off Hill and returned it 81 yards to pay dirt at 4:31.  Sarris connected on his sixth extra point.

The Cardinals scored the final points of the game when freshman Jordan Bost-Floyd scored on an 11-yard run at the 9:35 mark of the fourth quarter

The Yellow Jackets close out their three-game season-opening road trip when they travel to Alliance on Saturday, September 21 for an OAC game against No. two nationally-ranked and defending OAC Champion the University of Mount Union inside Mount Union Stadium at 1:30 p.m.