Winning Ways: Football looks for 6th straight victory at home this weekend

It’s about time we all just said it, the Case Western Reserve University football team is good, very good. The Spartans have now won their last five games and sit tied atop the President’s Athletic Conference (PAC) for the first time since rejoining the conference last season.

The Spartans’ fifth win of the season came last week as they took on the Golden Tornadoes of Geneva College in Pennsylvania. The Spartans were limited offensively compared to their previous four wins as they were only able to rack up 20 points. However this was no problem, as the defense exploded for their best game of the year and held Geneva to a mere seven points on 124 yards. Further the Spartan defense held back the Golden Tornado attack so well that it was the fewest yards allowed by a defensive squad under head coach Greg Debeljak in his 12 years coaching CWRU. The Golden Tornados managed to only advance 24 yards on the ground.

The Spartans’ defense excelled lead by Justin Williams, fourth-year student and defensive lineman who was named the University Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Week as he brought down the opposing quarterback twice behind the line of scrimmage for sacks and added four tackles to boost the Spartans’ overall successful defensive play.

Of course the offense was nothing to scoff at this game, either, as second-year student quarterback Rob Cuda connected with both fourth-year student wide out Bryan Erb and third-year tight end Zech Medved for touchdowns.

However the top accolades this week came for second-year student and Spartan kicker Ben Carniol. Carniol was named the Special Team’s Player of the Week in both the University Athletic Association and the PAC this week for his two successful field goal attempts, including a career long 36-yard kick he put through the uprights.

The Spartans will need every man on deck this week as they take on their toughest challenge since their week one matchup with the University of Chicago, as they play hosts to the Washington and Jefferson College Presidents.

The Presidents’ best offensive threat is running back Ryan Ruffing who has run for 692 yards and 13 touchdowns this season and is currently ranked fifth amongst all DIII running backs. Handing the ball to Ruffing, and a solid threat himself, is Pete Coughlin, the Washington and Jefferson quarterback who is completing a solid 67.7 percent of his passes this season for 1,567 yards and 12 touchdowns. Coughlin’s top weapon is Daniel Lis who has caught 40 passes, three of them ending in the endzone.
On the defensive end of the ball the Presidents are strong as well, under the leadership of Ryan Torrance who has posted 38 tackles on the season and Jon Turner who has racked up seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage and three quarterback sacks.

This means that the Spartans will have to play lights-out defense and play to their strengths on the aerial attack. Unlike last week 20 points likely won’t be enough for a victory, but Cuda and the Spartan attack have shown plenty of ability to score. The bigger threat will likely be Washington and Jefferson’s Ruffing, who will be the Spartans’ biggest thorn in their side. However if the Spartans are able to shut down the rush like they did last week, they will take away the Presidents’ biggest advantage and stand a solid chance at the victory.

Like the Spartans, the Presidents have excelled this year and sit at 3-1 in conference play. The Presidents’ only loss this year has been to the other PAC leaders, the Thomas More Saints, with whom the Spartans are tied for first in the conference. Last season when the Spartans played the Presidents for the first time since leaving the PAC the Spartans lost by a tidy 34-24 on the road.

The Observer’s Football Predictor machine pumped out the craziest numbers we have yet to see and wanted us to predict a Spartan victory at 62-51. However those numbers are a basketball score and, really, with how strong both teams are these numbers seem insane.

In tweaking the machine ever so slightly to try and figure out why the numbers came out the way they did, it seems as though both the Spartans and Presidents have excelled on the football field this year. They have slightly lopsided average years and points scored per game due to the subpar nature of some of their opponents.

As such our prediction formula has never had to handle two extremely good teams who have spent a good part of their season beating up on lesser teams come head to head. Therefore we had to tweak the system to account for the stellar level of both squads on both offense and defense, as the only logical way to get to a score of 62-51 would be if both teams just let the other team score at will and simply tried to outgun the other in the time allotted, a strategy neither coach is likely to implement.

Therefore we here at The Observer are predicting, like the tweaks output, an extremely narrow final score of 35-31.

The Spartans kick off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24 against the Washington and Jefferson Presidents.