GAMBIER, Ohio-- Denison University defeated Kenyon College 61-7 to clinch the program's first North Coast Athletic Conference football championship in 32 years. The Big Red finished in a three-way tie for the championship with Wabash (8-1) and Wittenberg (8-1).
Denison is the recipient of the conference's automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs via the NCAC's tiebreaker policy. This is Denison's second NCAA playoff berth and the program's first since 1985. This also marks the first time since 2004 that a team other than Wittenberg or Wabash will represent the NCAC in the playoffs.
A 31-point opening quarter by the Big Red sucked all the drama out of the regular season finale in Gambier. What it did do was allow Denison fans to turn their attention to the happenings in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The Big Red scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and they did it on a short field each time thanks to some stellar play by the DU defense. Kenyon finished the opening quarter with negative yardage and Denison was set up with excellent field position each time.
Canaan Gebele led Denison on five scoring drives in the first half to give the Big Red a 52-0 lead at halftime. Gebele was 11-of-16 for 136 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He carried the ball 11 times for 88 yards and scored once on the ground. Gebele is the third player in the 35-year history of the NCAC to surpass 10,000 yards of total offense in his career. Alex Minton needed only nine carries to total 127 yards rushing. He led the team with three rushing touchdowns while increasing his season rushing total to 1,291 yards, the third-best single-season total in Denison history.
The Kenyon offense finished with 19 yards rushing and 98 yards passing. The Big Red outgained them 490-117. Junior defensive end Nate Keirn had four tackles, two sacks, and three tackles-for-loss. Francis Fay had the game's only interception and Trevor Hardy led the team with seven tackles.
Brad Baldinger relieved Gebele in the second half and was 5-of-9 for 54 yards before giving way to first-year quarterback Drew Dawkins who finished the game. Senior Cody Farley bolstered Denison's 289 yards on the ground with 40 yards on eight carries. Hunter Biddle led the receivers with 42 yards on two receptions.
The Big Red will take an 8-2 record into next week's NCAA playoffs. Denison's opponent and the rest of the tournament field will be announced on Sunday (Nov. 11) at 5:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.