News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

October 23, 2012

Patience pays off for Walsh

TERRE HAUTE — Andy Walsh has patiently awaited his turn to man the quarterback position for Wabash College, perennially one of the nation’s top Division III programs.

His chances were rare in his first two seasons, and last winter the 2010 South Vermillion grad expanded his list of college sports to basketball and wound up as the Little Giants’ fourth-leading scorer at 7.3 points per game in 18 outings.

His patience on the football field has paid off the last two Saturdays, though, as Walsh took over for injured signal caller Chase Belton on Oct. 13 midway through Wabash’s game with Washington (Mo.).  He completed 6 of 11 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown in pacing Wabash to a 34-14 win.

Last Saturday, Belton was still sidelined with a concussion and Walsh was handed his first career start. He connected on 7 of 12 passes for 119 yards and two TDs — while running for another — in leading Wabash to a 30-0 win over Wooster.

“Any time your quarterback goes down, that can disrupt the flow of the offense,” Wabash coach Erik Raeburn said after the Washington game. “We were really moving the ball well in the first half so it’s disappointing but Andy went in there and did a great job.”

Walsh came in with the offense in the red zone and finished the drive with a bullet throw to wide receiver Sean Hildebrand.

“We throw around a bunch in practice,” Walsh said. “He was actually running a route that was short of the end zone but because of the goal line being right there he had to run longer. We had the same mindset and I trusted him to make the right adjustment and then make the great catch.”

Walsh later threw a harmless interception, but drew positive reviews overall from his coach.

 “Obviously the interception was a mistake — he didn’t see the linebacker,” Raeburn said. “Other than that play, I thought he did really well. The touchdown pass to Hildebrand was a great throw.”

Wabash is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the North Coast Athletic Conference, and is ranked 11th nationally by D3football.com and 15th in the country by the AFCA.

Raeburn’s squad is primarily a running team, racking up 295 yards in the Wooster win, but is not afraid to put the ball in the air.

Walsh credited his linemen with taking good care of him in the pocket.

“The offensive line was phenomenal all day long,” Walsh said. “I was only sacked once and that was because I held onto the ball too long.”

Walsh got started with 3:07 left in the first quarter when he found a wide open Darren Bost streaking across the middle for 10-0 lead.

“The defense bit hard on the play fake,” Walsh said. “It was quite obvious the defense was making sure to check the run game first. That’s a credit to our line and backs.”

Scoring continued in the third quarter with a leaping touchdown catch by Jon Laird, increasing the lead to 23-0. The final points came on a Walsh run, as the 6-3, 220-pounder attempted to plunge his way in from the one-yard line before bouncing it around the edge.

The Little Giants will face their toughest test of the final three games Saturday at 1 p.m. when they travel to unbeaten Ohio Wesleyan University.

How long Walsh’s run will be able to continue is unknown, but Raeburn knows he won’t lose a thing whenever he needs to go to him.

“It’s a tough situation when you’re not taking all the reps and you get thrown into the fire in the heat of battle with the game still on the line,” Raeburn said.

 

Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at tribstarcollegereport@yahoo.com.

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