By Tim Glon
BEXLEY — Ohio Northern scored on seven of its first 10 possessions, then converted a key fourth down late in the game to hold on for a 49-46 victory at Capital on Saturday afternoon at Bernlohr Stadium.
The Polar Bears (5-2 overall, 4-2 Ohio Athletic Conference) rolled up 509 yards of offense and converted 9-of-14 third downs in the victory.
The Crusaders (0-7, 0-6) came into the game with the nation's 17th-best passing attack, averaging more than 309 yards per contest.
Thomas Wibbeler was as good as advertised, completing 33-of-52 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns to lead CU.
Junior Anthony McFadden (Chillicothe/Paint Valley) completed 24-of-34 passes for a career-high 373 yards and four touchdowns and senior Chad Rex (Bradenton, Fla./Lakewood Ranch) had career-highs of 12 catches and 175 yards and also scored two touchdowns for ONU.
Sophomore A.J. Marks (Guysville/Alexander) ran 23 times for 100 yards and a score, freshman Brock Martin (Attica/Seneca East) ran 11 times for 42 yards and a score and McFadden ran for a touchdown to lead the Ohio Northern offense.
Leading 49-46, Ohio Northern faced a 4th-and-4 from the Capital 45-yard line with 2:00 left on the clock.
After Capital's final timeout, McFadden hit Rex for an 8-yard completion across the middle, giving ONU a first down with 1:56 to go.
McFadden then took a knee twice and ONU ran out the clock, clinching the school's 11th consecutive victory in the series with Capital.
"We wanted to put it on our offense to make a play," ONU head coach Dean Paul said. "That's exactly what our guys did. McFadden threw a nice ball to Rex for the first down. It was a big play. We converted quite a few third and long plays in the game and banked on doing it again on fourth and four.
"We were playing four freshman on defense for much of the second half. We did make some plays on defense, but Capital is very good at throwing the ball. We thought about punting the ball and making them go the length of the field with no timeouts, but we wanted to put the game in the hands of our offense to make a play."
Martin banged in from three yards out with 3:17 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-all and Marks followed with an 11-yard run to tie the game at 14-all with 11:33 left in the half.
McFadden made it 21-14 Polar Bears with 3:23 to go before intermission on a 26-yard touchdown pass to senior Caleb Saalfeld (Modesto, Calif./Fred Beyer).
After a CU field goal, McFadden connected on a 20-yard TD pass to Rex with 9.8 seconds left in the half to give the Polar Bears a 28-17 halftime lead.
Capital scored on its first possession of the third quarter, but ONU answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass from McFadden to Rex to make it 35-24 with 6:45 left in the period.
But the Crusaders would score on their next two possessions to grab a 39-35 lead just five seconds into the fourth quarter.
It took just four plays for ONU to march 71 yards and go back ahead 42-39 on a 47-yard TD pass from McFadden to Marks with 13:01 left in the game.
Freshman Gabriel Hirsch (Elyria/Catholic) ended CU's next drive with a sack on third and 10, giving ONU the ball back with 10:03 to play.
Northern then marched 86 yards in nine plays and scored on a 1-yard sneak by McFadden to make it 49-39 with 5:39 left to play.
CU then drove 61 yards in 12 plays and pulled within 49-46 with 2:58 to play.
Junior David Haseleu (Pittsburgh, Pa./Montour) had seven tackles, junior Gianni McCrea (Miami, Fla./Southwest) had a career-high six tackles and a PBU in his first career start and junior Greg Dennis (Mount Vernon) had six tackles and a PBU to lead the ONU defense.
Ohio Northern out-gained Capital 509-499 in total offense.
The Polar Bears will return to action on Saturday when they host Mount Union at Dial-Roberson Stadium as part of Homecoming Weekend and Senior Day festivities.