Football cruises into Homecoming game

Eddie Kerekes, Sports Editor

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Another week, another victory as the Spartans’ football team keeps rolling along. Case Western Reserve University improved to 5-0 on the season with a 37-14 victory over Bethany College in West Virginia last Saturday. With the victory, the Spartans improved to 4-0 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC), remaining tied for the conference lead as the season reaches the halfway point.

The Spartans struggled early on, committing three turnovers in their first four possessions. The normally sharp third-year quarterback Rob Cuda threw two interceptions (one that got returned for a touchdown), and third-year fullback Jacob Burke fumbled the ball on his first rushing attempt of the game.

The Spartans did manage to take an early lead, however, sparked by a fake punt. Burke, who also serves as the punter, ran for 32 yards on fourth and one, extending what appeared to be a stalled drive. Four plays later, Cuda ran in for a touchdown from three yards out.

Head Coach Greg Debeljak gave two reasons for the trick play. “It’s just something that they [Bethany] showed that they were susceptible to,” he said. “If you show it, and do it, teams are going to stop rushing the punter.”

On the next CWRU possession, Cuda was bailed out by his defense. A lengthy interception return put the Bison at the Spartans 11 yard line, but third-year linebacker Justin McMahon intercepted the Bethany quarterback to end the threat.

The Spartans’ defense played well all game yet again. They limited Bethany to just 70 rushing yards, as no team has yet to rush for more than 75 yards against the Spartans. The Bison’s passing attack was not much better, totaling just 77 yards through the air.

Leading the charge was second-year defensive end Cameron Brown with 10 tackles, two-and-a-half of those were for losses. Debeljak said, “He’s such a good athlete. He is a tough person to block. He prepares well, he works really hard, he brings an intensity into the game. He’s been a lot of fun to coach.”

When talking about the Bethany offense, Brown said, “They did a lot of funky things.… They did a bunch of motion in the backfield that I’d never seen before.”

Another Spartan defender who had an amazing game was fourth-year linebacker Jeep Madison. He had the game of his career as he recorded six tackles, half of them behind the line of scrimmage. Madison also added one-and-a-half sacks, a team-high.

“He did a really good job at re-routing receivers,” Debeljak said. “It was nice to see a senior that hasn’t played much get an opportunity and shine.”

Early in the second quarter the Spartans took the lead for good. Burke capped an 11-play 87-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Later in the quarter, Cuda ran for his second score of the day to put CWRU up by 13 points.

In the second half it was all CWRU and their running game took over.

On the second play of the half, Burke ran 51 yards for a touchdown, a sign of things to come in the half. The bruising running back ran for 113 of his career high 193 yards in the second half. It was his third consecutive game in which he set a new career high in yardage. It was his third game with at least two scores as well.

Debeljak said, “He’s a very difficult guy to bring down. Our line is a really good inside running, blocking line and Jacob is a between the tackles runner, so it’s a good combination.”

Two possessions later, Cuda found second-year wide receiver Justin Phan in the end zone to widen the Spartans’ lead. It was Cuda’s 10th passing touchdown of the year. To close the Spartans’ scoring, third-year kicker Ben Carniol added a field goal in the final minute of the third quarter.

CWRU returns home to DiSanto Field for two consecutive games. The first is the Homecoming game versus Thiel College (2-3, 1-2 PAC). In the second, the Spartans face the Geneva College Golden Tornadoes (2-3, 1-2 PAC) in the final night game of the season.

Thiel should be a good matchup for the Spartans, who are eager to impress the expected large home crowd. Brown said he was excited. “It should be a great game.”

The Tomcats average 34.4 points per game and their fourth-year quarterback will be a challenge for the tough Spartans defense. As Debeljak said, “This will not be an easy game for us.”

Thiel holds a 9-7 advantage over the Spartans in 16 all-time meetings between the schools. Though CWRU has prevailed in the last four games between the two teams, including a 41-6 blowout last season. Another encouraging stat, CWRU has won seven of their last nine homecoming games. If the Spartans stick to their strengths of a solid ground attack and stopping the run, they should prevail. The prediction machine has CWRU coming out on top in a shootout, 49-33 for the Spartans sixth straight victory.