Tigers Earn 15th NCAA Division III Tournament Berth

Head Coach Joe Fincham has a 9-8 record in NCAA Division III Tournament play. File Photo | Erin Pence
Head Coach Joe Fincham has a 9-8 record in NCAA Division III Tournament play. File Photo | Erin Pence

Springfield, Ohio – The Wittenberg University football team will compete in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the 15th time in school history following its third North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship in the last four years. The Tigers open their quest for the third national title since the start of the NCAA Division III Tournament in 1973 with a first round game at Heidelberg University at noon, Saturday, Nov. 17, in Tiffin, Ohio. 

The Tigers punched their ticket to the 2012 postseason by winning a share of the NCAC title for the 11th time since joining the league in 1989. Wittenberg tied Ohio Wesleyan for the top spot at 6-1 after finishing the regular season with a 47-20 victory at Oberlin on Nov. 10, and the Tigers were awarded the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament by virtue of tiebreaker criteria. 

Wittenberg, which brings an overall record of 9-1 into the competition, won the inaugural NCAA Division III Tournament in 1973, added a second title in 1975 and finished as national runner-up in 1978 and 1979. Wittenberg, the NCAA Division III program with the most wins in history, sports a 19-12 overall record in NCAA Division III Tournament play, in addition to a win in the 1969 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, which served as a College Division West Regional championship game that season. 

Prior to the creation of NCAA Division III and the start of national tournament play, Wittenberg laid claim to national titles in 1962, 1964 and 1969 based on polls. 

Wittenberg is led offensively by junior quarterback Reed Florence (South Charleston, Ohio/Southeastern), who ranks first in the NCAC and 11th nationally in passing efficiency and 35th nationally in total offense with more than 279 yards per game to his credit. His fine play in his first year as a starter has propelled the Tigers to the top spot in the conference and the top 35 nationally in total offense and scoring offense at 39 points per outing. 

Florence isn't the only first-year starter to excel in 2012. Freshman tailback Jimmy Dehnke (Canton, Ohio/Massillon Jackson) has been superb in his inaugural collegiate season, piling up 768 rushing yards (one shy of the Wittenberg freshman rushing record) and 139 receiving yards while also finding the end zone 12 times total. Through the air, the Tigers have five different wide receivers with at least 12 catches, led by junior Brendon Cunningham (Kettering, Ohio/Fairmont) with 51 receptions, 781 yards and seven touchdowns. 

Defensively, the Tigers are paced by a trio of junior linebackers in Spencer Leno (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon), Kyle Sanning (Fairborn, Ohio/Tecumseh) and Evan Killilea (Columbus, Ohio/DeSales), who have combined to make 233 tackles in 2012, including 21.5 for loss. Wittenberg ranks second in the NCAC and in the top 50 nationally in both total defense and scoring defense, allowing just over 15 points per game. 

Heidelberg finished second in the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) with records of 9-1 overall and 8-1 in the league. The Student Princes' only loss came against No. 1-ranked Mount Union, which has been the national runner-up each of the last three years to Wisconsin-Whitewater. 

The winner of the first round game between Heidelberg and Wittenberg will advance to face the winner of a game between Hobart and Washington & Lee at noon Saturday, Nov. 24. The game will be played at a site to be determined by the national selection committee on Sunday, Nov. 18. 

Tickets, $8 for adults and $4 for students and children, may be purchased either at the gate or online prior to the game for pickup at Will Call. Click here to purchase tickets online.

The game will be played at Tiffin Columbian High School's Frost-Kalnow Stadium (Click here for a Google Map of the stadium). Parking is available off of Charlotte St and South Monroe St.

Written By: Ryan Maurer