GRANVILLE, Ohio— Canaan Gebele rushed for 146 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 196 and a score to lead Denison University to a 49-31 victory over Southwestern University (Texas) on Saturday night at Piper Stadium.
In his first full season as the Big Red's starting quarterback, Gebele passed for 2,102 yards and rushed for 587 while accounting for 21 touchdowns. After an 8-2 season, Gebele and the Big Red put themselves on the map.
The build up to the 2017 season has been about budding expectations and proving that 2016 was no fluke. In the past, a 14-0 deficit after the first quarter would have been difficult to overcome. Tonight, the Big Red were calm, cool and collected, even after losing junior safety Ryan Zinkula to an injury in the opening minutes of the game.
Early in the second quarter, the Big Red offense got a spark from sophomore tailback Alex Minton. The first two carries of his career went for 14 yards and 23 yards, putting Denison deep in Southwestern territory. Gebele finished things off with a 14-yard touchdown run to make it a 14-7 game.
On DU's next possession, Gebele orchestrated a six-play 71-yard drive that ended on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Minton. Pat Kramer's extra-point tied the game at 14-14 and just like that, DU was back in the game.
Just before halftime, Southwestern's Luke Fierst connected on a 25-yard field goal to take back the lead at 17-14 heading into the intermission.
Denison won the opening coin toss and opted to defer possession until the second half. Southwestern's opening kickoff sailed out of bounds, placing the football on the Denison 35-yard line. On the first play of the half, Gebele called his own number and rushed for a 65-yard touchdown to get back in front, 21-17.
Southwestern fought back with an 8-play 67-yard drive that was finished off by a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Frederick Hover.
The Pirates held a 24-21 lead until 6:23 remaining in the third. Gebele's 7-yard touchdown run gave the Big Red the lead for good. In the fourth, Gebele, Minton and Cody Farley all reached pay dirt, expanding the lead to 49-24 late in the fourth quarter. Southwestern added a score with 3:25 remaining to set the final at 49-31.
As a team, Denison rushed for 339 yards and six touchdowns. The six rushing TDs were the most by a Denison team since Sept. 22 against Gallaudet. Gebele's four rushing touchdowns tied a Denison single-game record set in 1966 by Eric Ivary. The 339 yards rushing were the most by a Denison team in a game since 2008.
Gebele was 19-of-31 for 196 yards and one touchdown. He also led the team with 15 carries for 146 yards on the ground. David Weimar led all receivers with four receptions for 56 yards. Farley carried the ball eight times for 83 yards. He also had four grabs for 38 yards. Minton rushed for 95 yards on 10 carries and had two TDs (one receiving, one rushing).
Southwestern was paced by quarterback Frederick Hover who was 13-of-26 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He ran the ball 13 times for 37 yards and had two touchdowns. Jaxon Borowski had five catches for 100 yards.
On defense, Brice Winans led Denison in tackles with 11. Alex Raynor followed with 10. The game's lone interception came in the fourth quarter when rookie Peyton Vining intercepted Chris Demny and returned it 29 yards. Southwestern was just 4-of-16 on third downs compared to an 8-of-14 showing for DU.
Denison (1-0) is on the bye in week two and will return to action on Sept. 16 when they travel to Meadville, Pennsylvania for a 3 p.m. kickoff against Allegheny College.