After trailing 21-6 heading into the fourth quarter against Oberlin College, the Kenyon football team pulled off the comeback and earned their first conference win 28-21. The win moves the Owls to 2-3 on the season and 1-2 in NCAC play.
The Owls started the game with a quick three-and-out, but on the first Oberlin drive, defensive back Jaylen Cardoso ’24 picked off Oberlin quarterback Chris Allen Jr.’s pass at the Kenyon 10-yard line. Despite a promising start to the drive, Kenyon was forced to punt. The Yeomen marched down the field, and quarterback Allen Jr. found a receiver in the endzone under a minute into the second quarter. Another Kenyon punt gave Oberlin possession a minute and a half later, and the Yeomen took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
The Owls came back from break with a competitive mentality despite the dire outlook, according to running back Jordon Benjamin ’26. “A big thing really is just understanding that the game is never really over until it’s actually over,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. After the defense forced a turnover on downs, the offense took the field looking to score their first points of the contest. Benjamin and Drake Lewis ’25 led the team down the field, with Lewis capping the 62-yard drive off with a 3-yard rushing touchdown. With the score standing at 14-6 and just over six minutes left in the quarter, the Yeomen were able to stretch their lead with a passing touchdown.
Heading into the final quarter up 21-6, Oberlin looked ready to cruise to a comfortable win for their Homecoming weekend, but Kenyon had other plans. Quarterback Ryan O’Leary ’23 found Lewis for the Owls’ first passing touchdown of the day, cutting the deficit to 21-13. The second interception of the day proved timely for the Owls. Defensive back Daniel Guzevich ’26 gave the offense the ball back in Oberlin territory with momentum swinging in Kenyon’s favor. The Owls again relied on the ground game: The drive opened with a 25-yard run for Benjamin and closed with a rushing touchdown for O’Leary.
Down just one point with more than 10 minutes left on the clock, Kenyon’s defense was stout, forcing a three-and-out after NCAC Defensive Football Player of the Week Darryl Shands ’23 sacked Allen for a loss of six yards. With the chance to take the lead, the offense faced a fourth down at the Oberlin 25-yard line. O’Leary found wide receiver Joe Gorte ’23 to get the first down yardage. Moments later, the same pair connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Owls the lead. Benjamin was able to find the endzone on the two-point conversion to put Kenyon up 28-20. Oberlin took over at their own 28 with under five minutes left in the game, and Kenyon’s defense looked to put the game out of reach. Shands’s interception with 1:26 on the clock sealed the win for the Owls and pushed the Yeomen to 0-5 on the season.
For the Owls, the comeback win showed the team’s resiliency under pressure. Shands credited the team for sticking to the team’s philosophy. “‘Do your job’ is one of the pillars we as a team focus on,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “No one tried to do more or less than what was asked of us and that’s why we were able to limit the run and ultimately what won us this game.”
Defensive lineman Isaiah Sabastian Mann ’23 praised the defense for their strong performance. “We were all gas no brakes for four quarters of football,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It really helps when you have a new position coach like [defensive line coach] Brett McMurray who’s always getting our motors going so that we can continue making huge plays.” Benjamin emphasized the importance of moving on from a difficult first half to find success. “Evidently, the first half didn’t go the way we planned but it was our ability not to sulk in what had already happened, but to find that dog in us and believe that we, ultimately, were the ones that deserved to win that game,” he said.
Kenyon will return home to face the College of Wooster on Saturday at noon. For Benjamin, the team’s success is entirely within their control. “One thing happens on one play and it becomes so easy to just want to give up and be mad and dwell on what could’ve been,” he said, “but the reality of it is, we’re not perfect and we will mess up, so I feel like the difference between a winning team and a losing one is knowing how to react to being human.”