Walker’s big day not enough for Marietta

Marietta College’s Nick O’Neal (34) carries the ball during a game against Ohio Northern Saturday at Don Drumm Stadium. Photo courtesy of Knobel Photography.

MARIETTA — Marietta College never trailed in the first half.

But after the break, the Pioneers never led, and dropped a 45-29 decision to Ohio Northern University in an Ohio Athletic Conference football game at Don Drumm Stadium Saturday.

“We never trailed, but weve got to come out in the second half the same way we came in the first half, and attack them,” said MC junior running back Roger Walker. “We needed to put points on the board to keep the train rolling and keep the momentum.”

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Walker, who was the OAC Offensive Player of the Week last Monday, rushed for a game-high 177 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a TD reception. He has now eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in five consecutive games.

“I just want to thank my whole line,” Walker said. “They get the job done. I want to thank the Man upstairs for blessing me with the talent He gave me.”

Marietta quarterback Darrien Fields added 119 yards on the ground on 12 attempts. He also completed 25 of 38 passes for 219 yards and one TD of 21 yards to Walker.

“Roger’s doing some great things for us right now,” said Pioneer coach Andy Waddle, whose Pios fell to 2-6 overall and 2-5 in the OAC. “And, obviously Darrien Fields is doing some great things — and those aren’t the only guys. The guys playing around them are playing their tails off on offense. It’s been real impressive what those guys have done and what our coaching staff has been able to do to get those guys in position to make plays.”

Freshman receiver Billy Frauens had 11 receptions for 70 yards to lead the Pioneers in that offensive category.

Ohio Northern signal caller Will Freed passed for three touchdowns, and ran for another to lead the winners. Christian Williams gained 162 yards and rushed for two TDs. He also hauled in a scoring strike.

ONU evened its record at 4-4 overall and 4-3 in the OAC.

“We weren’t satisfied with the intensity we were playing with (in the first half),” said Polar Bears boss Dean Paul. “We weren’t satisfied with the execution.

“We felt like we had more in us, and we challenged our players at halftime to look internally and find a way to get it done.”

After a scoreless first quarter, MC staked itself to a 7-0 advantage on Walker’s four-yard touchdown run and Jimmy Embrescia’s PAT early in the second period. The Pioneer scoring drive covered 88 yards on 12 plays.

ONU answered that with a TD of its own on Williams’ two-yard run to paydirt. Joe French converted the extra point.

Going back and forth, the Pioneers regained the lead, 14-7, on Fields’ 21-yard touchdown pass to Walker at the 8:55 mark.

Again, the Polar Bears came back, moved the chains, and got the equalizer on Williams’ second short-yardage TD run of the game.

Just before halftime, Marietta struck again when Walker scored his third touchdown on a Fields’ pass, making it 21-14.

But then, ONU responded with a scoring strike of 61 yards from Freed to Williams to tie the score at 21-all.

“We did some good things in the first half on both sides of the ball,” Waddle said. “We also gave up a 61-yard play right before halftime, which was a bit of a dagger to the momentum, especially after just regaining that momentum with the two-minute drive.

“We’ve got to end halves and figure out a way to keep the momentum. Two weeks in a row, we kind of got daggered in the heart right before the end of the half. That’s got to be a focus this week.”

Said Paul, “Give Marietta credit for executing (in the first half) and doing a lot of things well. It’s never a good feeling when you’re going back and forth. You feel like you’ve got to hold serve, like tennis or something.”

With the clock winding down in the opening half, the Pioneers were on the march again, but this time…the Polar Bears’ defense held its ground, and time just ran out with the score knotted at 21-21.

“Getting a stop before halftime was important, because they were threatening there,” Paul said. “And, for Marietta to get another score before half would have definitely been a problem. We just wanted to go into halftime with some positive energy.”

Early in the second half, French kicked a 41-yard field goal to give ONU its first lead of the contest, 24-21.

Late in the third, the Polar Bears stretched their advantage to 31-21 when Freed scored on an 11-yard keeper.

In the fourth quarter, Freed threw two TD passes, one of nine yards to Riley Bransteter and the other of 53 yards to Reed Allen, who finished with five catches for 72 yards.

Capping all the scoring, Walker ran for a 53-yard touchdown at the 5:51 mark of final stanza.

Marietta is scheduled to host Capital University in a Veterans Appreciation/Shrine/Senior Day Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“We’ve got two more games to go, and let’s go get these last two wins,” said Walker, who could go over the 1,000-yard mark on the season with a 100-plus-yard game against the Crusaders.