Springfield, Ohio – The Wittenberg University football team will compete in the NCAA Division III Tournament for the 17th time in school history following its fifth North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship in the last six 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 against Washington & Jefferson College at 12 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at Wittenberg’s historic Edwards-Maurer Field.
The Tigers, ranked 13th nationally by the American Football Coaches Association and 12th by D3football.com, punched their ticket to the 2014 postseason by winning their 13th NCAC title. It was Wittenberg’s ninth outright title without a loss since joining the league in 1989 and the Tigers’ second in a row. Wittenberg is currently riding a 22-game NCAC winning streak.
Wittenberg, which has an overall record of 9-1 in 2014, 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. The NCAA Division III program with the second-most wins all-time, Wittenberg sports a 21-14 overall record in NCAA Division III Tournament play, in addition to a victory 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 Zack Jenkins (Frostproof, Fla./Frostproof), who ranks among the best in the NCAC and in the top 50 in all of NCAA Division III in several passing and total offense categories. For the season, the first-year starter under center has thrown for 2,499 yards and 23 touchdowns with a sparkling efficiency rating of 157.5.
Jenkins’ favorite target is junior wide receiver Zach Culvahouse (Fort Myers, Fla./Estero), who has already broken the school record for receptions in a season with 71 in his first season as a starter. He is one of three receivers with at least 33 catches in 2014 to supplement a rushing attack that has ground out 1,265 yards behind junior running backs Sean Gary (Indianapolis, Ind./Decatur Central) and Jimmy Dehnke (Canton, Ohio/Massillon Jackson). The Tigers have scored 20 rushing touchdowns in 2014.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by senior linebacker Evan Killilea (Columbus, Ohio/DeSales), who has 85 tackles, including nine for loss. Wittenberg ranks second in the NCAC and in the top 40 nationally in both total defense and scoring defense, allowing 12.8 points and 287.3 yards per game.
Wittenberg has a 13-3 record in NCAA Division III Tournament first round games, and a perfect 8-0 at Edwards-Maurer Field. The Tigers will square off with Washington & Jefferson for just the third time ever on the gridiron after the 19th-ranked Presidents qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament by clinching the automatic bid as champion of the Presidents Athletic Conference with a 9-1 overall record. The two teams have not played in football since 1930.
The winner of the first round game between Washington & Jefferson and Wittenberg will advance to face the winner of a game between third-ranked 2013 NCAA Division III runner-up Mount Union and Adrian at 12 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29. The game will be played at a site to be determined by the national selection committee on Sunday, Nov. 23.
Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $4 for students with identification and children. No passes of any kind will be accepted. All tickets will be sold at the gates on game day.
UPDATE: Wittenberg's Student Senate will pay the ticket price for any Wittenberg student who wants to attend the game.
Written By: Ryan Maurer