New ‘Takeaway Sword’ inspires Scots’ defense

New ‘Takeaway Sword’ inspires Scots’ defense

Simply because The College of Wooster has kicked off its 124th season of football, don’t assume it’s the same ol’ same ol’ at John P. Papp Stadium. On several fronts some new wrinkles surfaced at the 2021 season opener against the visiting Geneva College Golden Tornadoes on Sept. 4.

In addition to the fact that the Fighting Scots of head coach Frank Colaprete were able to hold off the visitors in a down-to-the-wire 42-35 shootout, some of the most stirring moments of the thriller ironically were provided by the COW defense.

While one can’t overlook the concern that the Scots gave up 35 points and 375 yards of total offense while facing Geneva’s triple-option offense, one of the big takeaways from the game came in the takeaway category.

Wooster totaled a trio of takeaways under the lights at Papp, which provided the opportunity for the Scots to show off their newest motivational tool to the crowd of 3,045.

It’s called the “Takeaway Sword,” and whenever a Scot recovers a fumble, intercepts a pass or takes the ball away from the opponents with whatever heads-up play might result, it’s sure to set off a noteworthy sideline celebration.

The most electrifying example of this new tradition was touched off by a most unusual play in an explosive third quarter. Kobe Nadu snatched Geneva quarterback Amos Luptak’s pitch attempt out of mid-air. The Scots’ strong safety sprinted 46 yards untouched for a touchdown. The point-after kick by junior Lake Barrett stretched Wooster’s lead to 28-14 at the 10:28 mark. Incidentally, Nadu’s fumble return for a touchdown marked a first by a Scot on an opponent’s rushing play since Robert Alvarez’s 33-yard runback at Bluffton University in 2018.

It took the exuberant Nadu only a few seconds to hustle over to the Scots’ sideline, where he grabbed the glistening sword out of its case and waved it back and forth high in the air.

Nadu’s teammates joined in too, surrounding their hero, chanting and making wild gyrations to the Scot fans, urging them to participate in the celebration.

Little did they know another “takeaway moment” was about to occur.

On the ensuing kickoff, Wooster sophomore defensive back PT Fischer pried the ball out of Hilton McClain, Jr.’s hands, and sophomore Dawson Arnold emerged with the pigskin. Again, the takeaway sword was on display in all its exultant glory.

As if two celebrations weren’t enough, later in the third stanza, Luptak was off the mark on his pitch to Gino Mavero, and Scots sophomore Domenic DeMuth charged through the swarm to get the fumble recovery at Geneva’s 36-yard line. A three-peat was in order for the members of the COW defense.

The concept of rewarding top defensive plays isn’t exactly new in college football. It was a few seasons back that the Miami Hurricanes started the “Takeaway Chain” craze. The player who made such a game-changing play would have a large gold chain, complete with a gold U, draped around his neck.

It didn’t take long for other colleges to follow suit with similar incentives for those making outstanding defensive plays.

In 2019, in fact, the Fighting Scots had their original version of a takeaway reward in place in the form of a bagpipe musical instrument that was picked up and displayed for all to see. Of course, none of the footballers even dared to squeeze actual notes from the bagpipe. One story is that Colaprete even offered his players a chance to take some bagpipe lessons.

In theory the tradition is the player who waves the takeaway sword “owns” it until the next such standout play is made. It is then handed on to the newest defensive star.

As it stands heading into this Saturday’s 1 p.m. NCAC opener against Kenyon, the sword is by far the more popular of the two takeaway prizes.

There was one other high note for Nadu, by the way. On Tuesday morning Nadu, who totaled five tackles in the opener, was named part of this week’s Team of the Week, as announced by the popular website dedicated to covering NCAA Div. III football.

As for other new wrinkles that were in effect for the opener, fans looking at a program/roster may have noticed that there are no freshmen on the COW team. Instead of the customary “Fr” designation, they now are listed as “Fy” players. It means “first-year” player, and the new label has been adopted at the college as a method of knocking down gender-specific walls. Assorted other schools are changing to the “Fy” label as well.

Fans also may have noticed a new logo on the shirts of the coaches and game staff. The traditional “block W” is now out, replaced by a black W of a custom-designed font. A bright gold, square background makes the new W stand out, and there is even a touch of red that helps complete the plaid Scottish motif. The logo change, albeit met with mixed reviews, was actually introduced in July.

Whichever font you prefer, the message is still the same: the Scots and their fans rule!

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