Yeomen Fall to Wabash 56-26 in Offensive Battle
by Colin Smith

On a day when the Oberlin College football team set several offensive records, they suffered their worst defensive breakdown of the season, surrendering seven touchdowns in the first half. In the 56-26 loss to Wabash on Saturday, Sept. 29, the offense drove for 530 total yards, while first-year quarterbacks Jim Cooper and Ryan Squatrito combined for 405 passing yards, and junior wide receiver Ricky Valenzuela had 239 receiving yards — all single-game records for Oberlin.
The 26 points were the most that Oberlin had scored since 1999, when they scored 27 in a loss to Earlham, but there could have been more. The Yeomen had seven turnovers, three of them in Wabash territory. The turnovers did not help an already-struggling defense, as Wabash seemed able to score at will in the first half, punting only once.
The Wabash Little Giants scored two unanswered touchdowns on their first drives of the game. But under Cooper, making his first college start at quarterback, the Yeomen followed with a touchdown of their own. On the second play of the drive, from the Oberlin 30, Valenzuela was able to shake his defender and Cooper hit him with a well-timed throw that he took all the way into the end zone.
With 12:31 left in the second quarter, Valenzuela made a beautiful catch on a short Cooper pass by splitting two defenders and breaking free for a 43-yard touchdown, cutting Wabash’s lead to 21-14.
From there, the game spiraled out of control. Wabash scored on the following possession, and received the ball back following an interception and a blocked Oberlin field goal, both times scoring touchdowns. Wabash needed only 15 plays for the three scores, as the Yeomen defenders struggled to make tackles.
The Yeomen’s mental trauma was evident on the next drive, when on the second play Cooper took the snap, turned around, and pitched it backwards, expecting to find a running back. Instead, the ball hit the ground several feet behind the line of scrimmage, and with no Yeoman even close, an oncoming Wabash defender scooped it up and ran it 23 yards for a touchdown.
At the half the Yeomen trailed 49-14.
“I told them, ‘Go out there and have fun,’” Head Coach Jeff Ramsey said of his half-time talk. “‘Make a mistake at 100 miles per hour, rather than make it tentatively. We have the ability to score 40 points this half.’”
In the second half, Cooper was replaced by Squatrito. Cooper was 16 of 17 for 168 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in an impressive starting debut.
“We’ll certainly use him again,” Ramsey said of Cooper. Ramsey also explained that he elected not to play Squatrito for the entire game because of the ankle injury he sustained against Case Western.
“I admit that I was nervous for my first [start],” Cooper said, “but wouldn’t anybody be? I believe that I contributed well, but I made a lot of mistakes that could have been easily avoided.”
Oberlin came out with noticeably more life in the second half. On the very first play, sophomore defensive back Quammie Semper picked off a Wabash pass at the Little Giant 44, for his conference-leading fourth interception. Squatrito connected with Valenzuela for passes of 26 and then 18 yards, as Valenzuela rounded out his incredible day with his third touchdown.

“If they [Wabash] decide to play me in man [coverage] like they do, I am hoping to have a breakout game,” Valenzuela had said prior to Saturday’s game, and he was true to his word. He had nine receptions in the game, including three touchdowns, for the record 239 yards. His longest catch went for 70 yards and he also had 10 yards rushing. He now leads all NCAA Division III receivers in yards per game with 181.2.
“He’s a real good student of the game,” Ramsey said of his receiver.
Wabash followed this third Oberlin touchdown with an 82-yard drive that ended in their eighth touchdown to make the score 56-20, but it was their last score of the game. Wabash replaced its starting quarterback, but showed the Yeomen a lot of respect by leaving most of their starting offense in. The Yeomen forced five punts in the second half and three drives of only three plays.

Similarly, most of the starting Little Giant defense remained in the game.
“I felt we had them scared,” Ramsey said.
Two possessions later, the Yeomen were back on the move. With Wabash keying on Valenzuela, Squatrito started hitting his other receivers. First-years Zach Lewis, Ryan Drews, and Vinnie Hachigian all had receptions on the drive. To cap the drive he found first-year wide receiver Scott Barker for a pass of nine yards and then a 33-yard pass for Barker’s first touchdown of the season.
With the score 56-26, Ramsey pulled a trick out of his bag. First-year place-kicker Steve Willever set up to kick the extra point, but instead took the snap and rushed for the end zone, coming up just shy of the goal line.
Ramsey said the team had planned to try the fake all week. “We saw that it was there so we tried to take advantage of it.
The Yeomen continued to create scoring threats, picking up big yards in the air and getting into Wabash territory three times in the game‘s final 20 minutes, but each time turning the ball over.

The Yeomen get a breather this week as they have a bye. “It’s a good thing,” Ramsey said, “It gives us time to heal.”
Oberlin will next play on Oct. 13 at Hiram.

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