Ottawa comes off its first win to host the KCAC’s highest ranked team.
The Braves (1-2, 1-0 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference) play 6 p.m. Saturday against No. 18 Tabor College (1-1, 1-0 KCAC) at Peoples Bank Field in Ottawa on Youth Day.
While Ottawa University football is just 1-3 in its last four matchups with the Blue Jays, the team has momentum on its side after a wild triple overtime win at Friends over the weekend. It marks the first time in four seasons the Braves have started 1-0 in conference play.
Tabor also got off to a perfect start in the first head-to-head KCAC matchup week, clobbeing visiting Bethel College 53-0 in Hillsboro. Nasty weather on Saturday postponed the game with 4:04 remaining in the first quarter. The final 49 minutes of action were played Sunday afternoon with Tabor proving dominant.
The Blue Jays out-gained the Threshers in total offense 451-61, and had 31 first downs to Bethel’s five.
Ottawa 34, Friends 28 (3OT)
WICHITA — While the Braves didn’t put up numbers quite as crazy as the one-sided affair at Tabor, they did pick up a huge conference win in crazy fashion Saturday at Friends University.
Ottawa had a 21-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but big plays from the Falcons led to a 14-0 swing to knot up the score.
Both teams’ kickers — Kyle Wokutch for Ottawa, and Leo Sosa for Friends — traded missed field goals in the first overtime period.
The Falcons snatched up momentum when Brennan Whitaker, senior quarterback, connected with Noah Diaz, freshman running back, for a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the second overtime.
On its offensive possession, Ottawa drove down to the Falcon five-yard-line only to be faced with a fourth down. With the game on the line, Conner Byers, sophomore quarterback, found Mauricio Uribe, senior wide receiver, for a five-yard touchdown to keep the Braves alive.
“You just have to keep on playing and battling through adversity, and I thought that is what our guys did,” Kent Kessinger, OU head football coach, said in his KOFO radio postgame interview.
The momentum swung back in Ottawa’s favor when Byers and Uribe hooked up again on a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the third overtime to make it 34-28 Braves.
The defense came up big for Ottawa on the ensuing possession for the Falcons. Four straight plays, and Friends went nowhere, giving the Braves the victory.
“Defensively, we made stops,” Kessinger said. “We gave up a couple wheel routes for touchdowns, and that let them back into it, but our defense made stops when it had to. They played physical.
“For three quarters, they dominated their side of the ball. In the fourth quarter, we gave up some momentum plays. We had a question mark whether it was a late hit that continued a drive. They got it down at the end of the game and tied it up. We had some issues like that where, young guys in certain positions, whether it is special teams or not, where we just need to focus in on stuff. Hopefully, this is the type of game that will serve to be a very positive learning experience from.”
Ottawa’s defense forced two fumbles, and kept Friends to just 3-14 on third down.
Statistically, the Braves had their best game of the season offensively, racking up 469 total yards and 27 first downs.
Byers completed 20 of 31 passes for 173 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. James Valentine, senior quarterback, saw some action under center when Byers got dinged up, completing six of nine passes for 36 yards.
Ethan Paul-Davis, junior running back, had a strong showing in his first action of the season. He had 122 yards on 17 carries, 73 of which came on a long touchdown run in the second quarter.
Uribe finished with 10 receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Connor Cox, junior tight end, added the other receiving touchdown, hauling in a 25-yard pass from Byers in the first quarter that put Ottawa up 7-0.
Marcus Fenderson, junior defensive back, led the OU defense with eight total tackles, one for a loss, and had both of the team’s fumble recoveries.