By Tim Glon
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. -- B.G. Howell kicked a 40-yard field goal in overtime to lift North Carolina Wesleyan to a 16-13 football victory over Ohio Northern on a hot Saturday afternoon at Northern Nash Athletic Complex in the season opener for both teams.
Junior Tyler Rue led the Polar Bears (0-1 overall) through the air and on the ground, completing 26 of 37 passes for 215 yards and a TD and running 15 times for 60 yards and a score.
But the story of the game was missed scoring chances for ONU. Northern crossed midfield six times, but scored only twice, throwing two interceptions in the end zone. Three of Rue's four interceptions were results of balls that slipped through ONU receivers' hands.
"Turnovers and missed opportunities really cost us in the compete zone today," ONU head coach Dean Paul said. "We had drives stall in their territory that cost us chances to score. Interceptions, penalties, missed assignments, a missed extra point. The overall production of the offense was good, but we needed to take advantage of our opportunities.
"Defensively, we did a nice job of holding them to 13 points in regulation. So there were many positives on that side of the ball."
Northern took the ball first in overtime and Rue was intercepted in the end zone on a 3rd and 11 play from the 15-yard line.
The Battling Bishops (1-0) went 3-and-out on its overtime possession, but Howell drilled a 40-yard field goal to win the game in overtime.
ONU had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but junior Devian McKennie was stopped on a fourth and 1 from the NCW 19-yard line with 1:29 to play.
N.C. Wesleyan got on the board first, marching 72 yards in eight plays on its second possession, scoring on a 4-yard run by Jacques Alston with 5:50 left in the first period to take a 7-0 lead.
Northern marched 95 yards in 15 plays and scored on a 28-yard TD pass from Rue to senior Justin Wilson with :58 left in the first half.
NCW blocked the ensuing PAT to kept a slim 7-6 lead.
The Bishops added to their lead on the last play of the half, as Laron Ellerbe hit Alston on a 4-yard TD pass. Sophomore Steven Kenny blocked the PAT and NCW led 13-6 at halftime.
Rue snuck in from two yards out with 1:04 left in the third period. Freshman Matt Chaney's PAT was good and the game was tied at 13-13.
ONU out-gained NCW 398-292 in total offense and held the ball for 34:35.
Wilson caught a career-high 11 passes for 71 yards and McKennie finished with 59 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Ellerbe completed 7 of 16 passes for 88 yards and ran 25 times for 89 yards to lead the Battling Bishop offense.
Defensively, sophomore Steven Kenny had nine tackles and senior Joe Powell had eight tackles to lead the ONU defense.
It was just the second overtime in Ohio Northern history. Northern edged Otterbein 34-33 on Sept. 17, 2011 in Dial-Roberson Stadium in its first-ever overtime game last season.
The Polar Bears traveled 619 miles to Rocky Mount for the game, making it the second-longest road trip in school history and the longest in 60 years.
Northern's 1952 Mid-Ohio Championship team, coached by the legendary Clyde Lamb, made a 630-mile trek to Arkansas State and suffered a 47-0 loss that afternoon.
The trip was longer than ONU's 593-mile trip to West Point, N.Y., in 1931 to play Army (a 60-0 loss in Harris Lamb's first year as head coach) and a 569-mile road trip to St. Lawrence, N.Y., in 1953 (a 47-13 loss under Clyde Lamb).
The Polar Bears will open the home portion of their schedule on Sept. 15 with a 2:15 pm contest against Heidelberg at Dial-Roberson Stadium.
The game is Veterans Appreciation Day with festivities honoring our nation's veterans throughout the afternoon.
It is also the second annual Bendekovic Bowl, which began in 2011 to honor the late Ron and Jason Bendekovic, who each passed away as members of the respective school's coaching staffs in recent years.