Denison and Wooster began playing for the "Old Red Lantern" in 1989 and early on, it spent plenty of time nestled in head Coach Keith Piper's trophy case. However, since 1995, the lantern has become somewhat of a mythical artifact. Aside from the occasional guest appearance at select Denison-Wooster football games, no one on Denison's roster or coaching staff could boast that they had ever raised the lantern in victory.
All of that changed on a rainy and cold Saturday afternoon at John P. Papp Stadium as Denison marched its way to 27-13 victory. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Fighting Scots. It also marks the return of the lantern to Granville for the first time in 16 years.
The weather often dictates game plan. With the wind howling through the hills of Wayne County and the rain wreaking havoc with visibility, Denison's ball control offense led by juniors Max Paulus and Sam Fioroni seemed to be the perfect pawns for days like this.
DU got on the board first when senior Matt Ring booted a 25-yard field goal with 2:58 left in the first quarter. Wooster would respond on its next possession when Justin Rice caught a 31-yard touchdown from Brett Frongillo. The point after attempt failed and Wooster led 6-2 heading into the second quarter.
The Big Red would begin to establish some things offensively in the second quarter as Paulus and company drove down the field for a 12-play, 78-yard drive that was capped off by a John Wilson 4-yard touchdown run. The key play of this series was a 13-yard completion to Nick Keller on fourth-and-two from Wooster's 28-yard line.
Leading by four, Wooster would bounce back on its ensuing possession as Frongillo connected with Cameron Daniels on a 23-yard gain to move the ball to the Denison 13-yard line. A roughing the passer flag on second-down moved the ball to the DU two-yard line. That's where tailback Robert Flagg finished things off, and put his team back on top 13-10 with 2:55 to play in the second half.
One of the most pivotal drives of the day was started off by a 23-yard kickoff return by Colin Morris that got the ball out to the Denison 48-yard line with 2:48 remaining. A 10-yard run by Wilson would be followed by first-down completions to Braden Layer and Lucas Graham. Now with less than a minute to play, DU was knocking on the door and faced with a third-and-goal from the Wooster one-yard line. Paulus would go under center and take the snap. He got a big push by the offensive line and the QB sneak was converted with 24 seconds to play, giving Denison a 17-13 lead heading to the locker room.
The DU offense was sharp in the second quarter, but the Denison defense set the tone in the third quarter, holding the Scots to just one first down in the period. The Big Red's lone points in the third quarter would come from another field goal by Ring, but the time of possession was dominated by DU as they controlled the ball for over 10 of the quarter's 15 minutes.
Now leading by seven, Wooster would take over possession with 13:22 to play at its own 17-yard line. Frongillo would get his offense out to the 34-yard line but a penalty would move the chains back and his pass attempt on third and five from the 32-yard line came up short. A 23-yard punt by Dan Obery would put the Big Red in great shape at its own 45-yard line with a chance to make this a two-possession game.
After taking over with just under 12 minutes to play, Paulus would lead Denison on an impressive 10-play 55-yard drive that would end with him hitting Fioroni on a 15-yard touchdown pass to put DU up 14. It marked the third catch of the day for Fioroni would pile up 190 yards of total offense on the day.
Now with only 6:04 left in the game, Wooster's offense needed a quick score. They started off the drive with a 20-yard completion to Rice but on fourth-and-seven from the Denison 34-yard line, Frongillo found Rice for a four-yard completion, resulting in a Fighting Scot turnover and a long-awaited over the College of Wooster.
Paulus finished the afternoon 13-of-24 for 260 yards and the TD pass to Fioroni in the fourth quarter. Fioroni posted his third 100-yard rushing day with 125 yards off 28 carries. Wilson added 60 yards rushing and 96 yards receiving off just two receptions.
The Denison offense maintained possession for 38 of the game's 60 minutes. That left a fresh Denison defense ready to make plays as they posted two sacks while forcing the Scots to go 2-for-11 on third and fourth down plays.
Wooster was led offensively by Frongillo who passed for 240 yards and rushed for another 53 yards on 13 carries. Jordan McIntyre led all Wooster receivers with eight catches for 77 yards.
Denison remains in a tie for first place in the NCAC with the victory as its record moves to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in league play. Wooster falls to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the conference.
BACKGROUND BEHIND THE OLD RED LANTERN: The tradition began in 1989, when the two schools were commemorating the 100th anniversary of their first meeting on the football field (Nov. 23, 1889). The lantern represents the railroad light the teams used to travel by in their early meetings at the turn of the century. This marked the 80th meeting in the all-time series between DU and Wooster and the 20th time the two colleges have played for the lantern.