Pios win thriller: Tanner Clark rushes for 311 yards, scores 6 TDs as Marietta tops Capital 51-50
Garrett Davis, James Knox stuff two-point try to save the day
On a day highlighted by the offenses, it was a defensive play that decided Saturday’s game between Marietta College and Capital at Don Drumm Stadium.
Marietta College’s Garrett Davis laid the big hit on Capital quarterback Thomas Wibbeler and James Knox cleaned it up to stuff a potential game-winning two-point conversion and give the Pioneers a wild 51-50 victory on a rainy afternoon.
Wibbeler, whose passing torched the MC defense throughout the game, scored on 1-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter to get the Crusaders within one. But instead of tying the game with a kick, Capital went for two and came up inches short on Wibbeler’s leap toward the end zone.
“(Wibbeler) was rolling out, started coming over to me, and I was waiting for him to make a move,” said Davis, a senior and graduate of Marietta High School. “All of a sudden he’s damn near all the way over me. I just grabbed his legs, and when I looked back Knox was coming to clean him up.”
Capital had two tries at the conversion.
The first was an incomplete pass, but a pass interference call on Davis gave the Crusaders another try.
“I just had that pass interference and I knew I had to make up for it,” Davis said.
Said Marietta head coach Andy Waddle, “I’m excited that we got the win. But it was certainly not the way we felt that we would play, especially on defense. It’s a credit to Capital for making some great plays. We said all week that Thomas Wibbeler is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and he played like that today.”
Prior to the spectacular finish, fans were treated to an epic duel between Marietta running back Tanner Clark and Capital’s Wibbeler, who took turns leading their respective offenses up and down the field all game. Wibbeler finished 33 for 53 passing for 511 yards and six touchdowns. Clark touched the ball 35 times for Marietta, amassing 358 total yards and six touchdowns. He had 312 yards on the ground on 34 carries, making him the first Pioneer to rush for 300 yards since Dante Brown in 1996.
Clark credited the men up front — Caleb Riggleman, Patrick Taylor, Brendan Mullholland, Payton Henderson and Michael Sturgill — for his success.
“That just shows you how great that line is,” Clark said. “Oh my gosh. That veteran line — all seniors, one junior. (Left tackle Caleb) Riggleman getting hurt and showing that toughness. If it wasn’t for that senior line, I wouldn’t be where I am, that’s for sure.”
Wibbeler threw five first-half touchdowns, with Dar Stanford hauling in three (4, 42, and 31 yards), and David Barnett (21 yards) and Cory Heeter (9 yards) hauling in one apiece. Blake Middleton also had a 35-yard field goal for the Crusaders to give them 37 points in the first half.
On the other side, Clark bulldozed his way through the Capital defense for 248 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. Three of his scores came on the ground (72, 62 and 1 yard) with the other coming on a 47-yard screen pass from quarterback Darrien Fields.
“(The coaches) always talk about how we’ve got to settle for four or five yards (per play) and eventually those big plays are going to break through,” Clark said.
So, the Pioneers trailed 37-28 at halftime. There were two punts in the first half of play, both by Fields for Marietta.
“First half was definitely rough,” Davis said. “They have a good quarterback and good receivers. We made halftime adjustments, came back out and we executed how we had to and finished how we had to.”
The rain began to fall to start the third quarter and both offenses appeared to be affected.
Capital drove the ball to Marietta’s 10 on the first possession of the second half, but Marietta’s Christopher Dowell forced a fumble with teammate Caleb Boy recovering to give the Pioneers the ball.
Capital forced a Marietta punt, but the Pioneers answered by forcing a turnover on downs.
Marietta then struck for the first points of the second half with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Fields to Andrew Barker to get within two, 37-35.
A fired up Pioneer defense forced a Capital three-and-out, and Marietta got the ball with a chance to finally take the lead. Starting at their own 43, the Pioneers marched down the field, converting a fourth-and-1 with a 1-yard Clark run to the Capital 47. Clark then ran for a gain of 15 before Fields connected with Barker on a 27-yard pass to the 5, setting up Clark’s fifth touchdown of the game. Clark then caught Fields’ two-point conversion pass to give the Pios a 43-37 lead with 13:33 remaining.
Capital quickly retook the lead, though, with running back Evin Butler leading the Crusaders down the field and scoring on a 1-yard run to make it 44-43 with 10:45 left in the game.
On its ensuing possession, Marietta faced a third-and-5 from its own 35. Fields juked out a pass rusher, rolled to his right and found Barker up the field for a 29-yard gain and a first down. Barker caught the ball with a Capital defensive back in his face to keep the drive alive. Once again, Clark punctuated the possession with a 4-yard TD burst, and Fields found Bobby Cashaw for the two-point conversion to put the Pios ahead 51-44.
That set up Capital’s final drive, which included a fourth-and-5 conversion at its own 25. A facemask penalty on Marietta on third down deep in Pioneer territory also was pivotal. Capital eventually forced its way into the end zone, only to get rejected on the two-point try, sending the Pioneer defense sprinting to the sideline in celebration.
“At halftime our defense stepped it up for sure,” Clark said. “They stopped them and we took advantage.”
Fields completed 14 of his 22 pass attempts for 214 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Barker caught four balls for 102 yards, while Clark and Maguire Morris added 47 and 46 receiving yards, respectively.
Capital was led by Wibbeler’s 19 rushes for 85 yards. Barnett caught 12 balls for 225 yards while Stanford tallied 153 yards on seven catches.
The two teams combined for 1,199 yards of offense.
At Don Drumm Stadium
Marietta College 51, Capital 50
Capital (0-2, 0-1) 17 20 0 13 — 50
Marietta (2-0, 1-0) 14 14 7 16 — 51
C: Dar Stanford 4 pass from Thomas Wibbeler, Blake Middleton kick, 9:29 1st
C: David Barnett 21 pass from Wibbeler, Middleton kick, 5:55 1st
M: Tanner Clark 47 pass from Darrien Fields, Jimmy Embrescia kick, 3:32 1st
C: Middleton 35 field goal, 1:16 1st
M: Clark 72 run, Embrescia kick, :00 1st
C: Cory Heeter 9 pass from Wibbeler, kick failed, 11:46 2nd
M: Clark 62 run, Embrescia kick, 11:03 2nd
C: Stanford 42 pass from Wibbeler, Middleton kick, 9:20 2nd
M: Clark 1 run, Embrescia kick, 7:02 2nd
C: Stanford 31 pass from Wibbeler, Middleton kick, 4:58 2nd
M: Andrew Barker 37 pass from Fields, Embrescia kick, 1:42 3rd
M: Clark 5 run, Clark pass from Fields, 13:33 4th
C: Evin Butler 1 run, Middleton kick, 10:45 4th
M: Clark 4 run, Bobby Cashaw pass from Fields, 6:17 4th
C: Wibbeler 1 run, run failed, :26.1 4th
First downs 34 22
Rushes-yards 32-147 45-327
Passing yards 511 214
Total yards 658 542
Passing 33-53-0 14-22-1
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 6-55 9-81
Punts-average 1-37 3-28
Rushing: C: Thomas Wibbeler 19-85; Evin Butler 7-25; Antwan Shipp 3-32; Cory Heeter 3-5; M: Tanner Clark 34-311; Darrien Fields 8-14; Jake Tracewell 1-4; Ryan VanMeter 1-(-1); Passing: C: Wibbeler 33-53-0, 511 yards; M: Fields 14-22-1, 214 yards; Receiving: C: David Barnett 12-225; Cory Heeter 7-79; Dar Stanford 7-153; Evin Butler 4-41; M: Andrew Barker 4-102; Maguire Morris 7-46; Tanner Clark 1-47; Bobby Cashaw 1-11
Next game: Marietta at Muskingum, 1 p.m. Saturday