Finding new ways to win

Spartans use air attack to win sixth straight

Eddie Kerekes, Sports Editor

The formula may have been a bit different, but the result was still the same for the Spartans. The Case Western Reserve University football team secured another victory, their sixth in a row, over the Thiel College Tomcats, 48-21. With the win, CWRU improved to 6-0 on the year and 5-0 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC). They remained tied atop the conference standings with Thomas More College.

Normally used to running through their opponents with a dominant ground game, the Spartans switched it up this week and let the arm of third-year quarterback Rob Cuda carry them to victory. Cuda passed for a career high 340 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target, fourth-year wide receiver Brendan Lynch, caught seven passes for 219 yards and scored both of the touchdowns. Lynch’s receiving total was three yards short of the school record, which he tied earlier in the year.

Cuda had his second most efficient game of the year, completing 77.3% of his 22 passes. Head Coach Greg Debeljak at least partially attributed the quarterback’s big day to the hard work he put in during practice. Debeljak said, “He worked really hard this week on his footwork … His timing was better, his balance was better, and he threw a more accurate ball this week.”

The epitome of the passing attack was the two long touchdowns that came on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter. With the Spartans already up 13-3, the offense got the ball at their own 40 yard line following a punt. Cuda caught the snap, faked a screen to the outside, and found Lynch deep over the middle of the field. The wideout took care of the rest, evading tacklers on his way to the end zone.

The next time CWRU possessed the ball, the same outcome occurred. On the very first play Cuda threw the ball to Lynch, who was streaking down the left sideline. A Tomcat defender managed to get a paw on the ball, but tipped it right into Lynch’s hands. After the catch, there was no one to stop the speedy wide receiver from reaching the end zone for the ninth time this season, as the Spartans went up 27-3.

In addition to Lynch’s great skill, Debeljak said that the way Theil’s defense played allowed the wideout to have a big day. “We put Brendan out in a position where we knew he had single coverage and we were just gonna let Rob play pass and catch to our best kids,” he said.

Despite focusing on the passing game, third-year fullback Jacob Burke still ran for 76 yards on 15 carries and added two touchdowns to his season total. After missing the team’s opening game due to injury, Burke has scored at least once in every CWRU game, adding up to 11 on the season. Cuda added three rushing touchdowns of his own, tying him with Burke for the team lead. All told, the quarterback has accounted for 23 touchdowns in six games.

The Spartans would not have a perfect record if not for their defense, and, though not as dominant as in other games, the unit came through yet again. Despite giving up the most rushing yards of any game this season, thanks to 142 yards from fourth-year quarterback Ryan Radke (a “special player” according to Debeljak), the defense stopped the Tomcats when it mattered most. Thiel converted just 12.5% of their third down attempts and scored just 10 points in three trips to the red zone.

Leading the charge was third-year linebacker Justin McMahon with 11 tackles. In every game this season, McMahon has had at least five tackles. Debeljak said, “He’s really consistent; he’s really smart. He reads and reacts better than anybody, which puts him in an advantageous position.”

Third-year linebacker Chanan Demery added ten tackles of his own and also forced one of the two Tomcats’ fumbles. Three Thiel turnovers (there was also an interception) improved CWRU’s turnover differential to +6 for the season.

The next challenge for the Spartans comes from Geneva College (2-4, 1-3 in PAC) on Oct. 22. CWRU will need to stop the Golden Tornadoes’ rushing attack, something that hasn’t been a problem for the team this year. However, CWRU has not seen Geneva’s style of offense yet this season. The Golden Tornados run the triple option, rushing the ball on almost 90% of plays. So if the Spartans can stop the run, they should be set for an easy victory.

Said Debeljak, “You have to play assignment football [when facing the option] … You have to be totally committed to stopping it… Because they don’t do a ton of things, you only have to prepare for a few, but you just have to make sure you execute.”

The Spartans and the Golden Tornadoes have faced off four times on the gridiron, with CWRU taking three of the four contests.

CWRU’s penultimate home game of the season kicks off at 6 p.m. Spartan fans should be in for a treat, as the prediction machine has CWRU coming out victorious 52-16.