You could call it a victory two years in the making.
Seven hundred-and-29 days have passed since Tiffin University's program tasted victory. For the Dragons' Gary Goff, Saturday's 23-13 victory over McKendree was his first as a head coach.
On the field after the contest's conclusion - clutching the game ball - Goff was as ecstatic as any one of his players, and didn't mind showing it.
"I've been preaching to the guys all week, 'Believe, believe in what we're doing,'" Goff said. "The only test we had left was how we were going to face adversity."
Tiffin had to go up against plenty of it. Its offense came out slow, and labored through some shaky possessions. But its defense - behind new coordinator Seth Duerr - excelled. It limited McKendree's Dave Bergschneider to just 93 yards passing, and kept the Bearcats running game to a meager 3.1 yards-a-carry average.
It also picked off Bergschneider three times - sophomore linebacker Josh Pribble had two of them, each coming in the first half.
"In practice we talk about pursuit to the ball all the time," Pribble said. "We do drills where we sprint to the ball all the time, and [we] put it on in the game, sprint to the ball and the ball just happened to fall into my hands."
And yet, the Dragons had to come from behind after a Jeruel Taylor touchdown run made it 6-0 with 2:34 to go before the half.
Tiffin answered as quickly as possible. It blocked the extra point and linebacker Kyle Yoder picked up the ball, followed his blockers and returned it to the other end zone for two points.
Down 6-2, TU QB James Capello responded by leading the Dragons on a five-play, 69-yard drive that concluded when Bertram Marks extended in the end zone to make an over-the-shouler catch for a touchdown with 1:28 left. The 36-yard pass play sent the Dragons to the half with a 9-6 lead.
The second half started with more adversity for TU, as on the opening drive, Capello was picked off by McKendree's Zach Haselhorst, who went 50 yards untouched for a score and a 13-9 Bearcat lead.
After the teams traded punts, Capello and the Dragons bounced back. After a 45-yard run by Jeremy Ortiz took the ball to the McKendree 4, Capello found Obadiah Dykes over the middle for a touchdown.
"That was the momentum we needed, right there," said Dykes, who made five catches for 63 yards. "The defense fed off it; we gave them time to rest so they could go out there and stop their offense, and we just played football from there."
The game remained 16-13 deep into the fourth quarter. With McKendree facing a third down at the TU 31 with 2 1/2 minutes left, senior defensive back Logan Snell intercepted a Bergschneider pass and returned it to the end zone.
"The play that Logan Snell made," Goff said, "was unbelievable."
As the clock ticked down, the Dragons mood turned from intense to celebratory.
"I tried to hold them back," Goff said, laughing. "I tried to say, 'Hey, the game's not over; we're not done yet.'
"It was hard, because, obviously, they've been through a lot," he said. "Great win. I'm so proud right now."
In all the excitement, Dykes tried to put things in perspective.
"I'm over it now," Dykes said. "I'm ready for Monday. I just want to go, watch film, get it over with this week and prepare for Michigan Tech."