Burke, Henderson lead Spartans over Wolverines

CWRU cruises to victory, 42-10


Matt Chasney

Looking toward the end zone, Jacob Burke has his eyes on a touchdown. The fourth-year running back totaled four rushing touchdowns, tying a school record.

There were both expected and unexpected aspects of the football game between Case Western Reserve University and Grove City College on Sept. 16. The final score read 42-10 in favor of the Spartans. That was the expected part, as Grove City came in on a 32 game losing streak while CWRU was ranked No. 17 in the country. The unexpected part was how the game got to that score.

After just a half of play, the Spartans lead 21-10, a small margin for such a mismatch. In the second half, CWRU pulled away with 21 unanswered points.

The Spartans started strong, scoring on their first two possessions to stake out a 14-0 lead. It appeared to the surprisingly raucous home crowd that the game would end in a rout and students could retreat to their residence halls before 10 p.m. Coming off a bye week, CWRU looked fresh and full of energy and the crowd fed off of it.

Head Coach Greg Debeljak said the team took time over the break to work on both conditioning and in-game intensity.

“I think that showed with how Jake [Burke] ran and I think it showed [with] how Rob [Cuda] ran,” he said. “They played with more intensity, there was more [of] a sense of urgency, and they were in better shape.”

Burke, a fourth-year running back, finished the day with four touchdowns on the ground, tying his own school record. Cuda, a fourth-year quarterback, led the team with 118 rushing yards, his seventh career game with over 100 yards. It was a sharp departure from the team’s previous game, when the Spartans rushed for a combined 55 yards.

However, the Spartans offense stalled for the rest of half and tacked on just one more score, despite accumulating over 300 yards in the first half. Debeljak pointed to the team not being efficient with their yardage.

By the time the second half came, the Spartans proved they were the much better team, shutting out Grove City and doubling their point total.

Leading the way defensively was third-year defensive lineman Ian Henderson. The 6 foot 6 inch, 340 pound player always seemed to be in the Wolverines backfield taking down the ball carrier. He finished with a team high eight tackles, including one sack, and forced two fumbles. Following the game, Henderson was named to the D3football.com Team of the Week and earned both Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) and University Athletic Association Athlete of the Week honors.  

“Ian just dominated the game… He’s a force,” said Debeljak. “There’s no other way to describe him; he’s just a force.”

Of the three touchdowns the Spartans scored in the half, the second one was perhaps the most impressive. Cuda found fourth-year wide receiver Giuseppe Orsini in the front corner of the end zone from 30 yards out. As he was hauling the ball in, Orsini was falling to the ground and managed to touch the requisite one foot in bounds for the score. It was the wideout’s second score of the game, as he finished with 69 yards on just two catches.

Orsini has been the breakout wide receiver the Spartans have needed this year, seemingly coming out of nowhere to tie for the team lead in receiving touchdowns. He has been hurt for the majority of his collegiate career, appearing in just six games and totaling two yards in three seasons.  

Debeljak praised Orsini’s receiving skills, calling him “a great route runner” with “excellent feet.”

“In spring, we saw the ability,” the coach said. “And now he’s been able to stay healthy.”

Burke sealed the game with his fourth touchdown, a one yard run with over 11 minutes to play. The fourth-year back was hard to bring down throughout the game, totaling 104 yards on the ground. On his third score, he practically dragged two Wolverines five yards before reaching the end zone.

With the win, the Spartans improved to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in PAC play. Grove City dropped to 0-3 with their 33rd consecutive loss. On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Spartans continue conference play when they take on Waynesburg University in their second straight home night game. The Yellow Jackets enter the game with an 0-3 record, though the Spartans do not expect the team to be a pushover.

“They’re [a] real solid, well coached team,” said Debeljak. “If you let them hang around, they cause problems.”

The Yellow Jackets are particularly strong on the offensive line, as brothers Hunter and Tanner Six anchor the blocking. Hunter, a 6 foot 2 inch fourth-year student, weighs in at 400 pounds, while Tanner, two years his junior, adds 325 pounds to the line. Henderson is going to have his hands full trying to get past the Wall of Six.

Debeljak hopes both the offensive and defensive units will be clicking to start the game and the Spartans start with an early lead, as they did against the Wolverines. The matchup starts at 7 p.m. at DiSanto Field.