Football team falls just short in opener

Football is a game of inches. The Case Western Reserve University football team learned that the hard way after losing at the University of Chicago last Saturday by a score of 31-30. A fourth quarter missed extra point was the difference in the high-scoring affair, the Spartans’ third-highest scoring opener, as the teams were evenly matched throughout.

The first quarter was dominated by defense as both teams were held scoreless, though each had their opportunity. CWRU looked like they were in business on their second drive, however, Chicago linebacker Nick Pielech forced a fumble, ending the Spartans’ push before they could score. Chicago missed their opportunity as well, failing to convert a 38-yard field goal after the Spartan defense stopped a crucial third down.

CWRU capitalized and on the first play of the second quarter, Rob Cuda hit Ethan Albers for a 67-yard touchdown. This was the first of two long touchdowns from Cuda, who went 21 for 35 with 339 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Big plays abounded all game for the Spartans due in large part to an offensive line that only allowed one hit on Cuda all game.

After the two teams traded field goals, Chicago, led down the field by quarterback Burke Moser, tied the game before the half expired, as Moser threw to Cole Thoms for his first of two scores. Early in the drive, Chicago converted a third and 13 after a timeout with a big play of their own, a 20-yard completion from Moser to Nathan Massey.

After CWRU got the ball following a Chicago punt, their running backs drove the team to Chicago’s 26-yard line to set up the play of the game. Cuda dropped back, rolled out, evaded a Chicago defender and threw the ball to the end zone for a diving Myles Anthony, who caught it to give the Spartans the lead back.

A stingy Spartan defense, led by corner Nick Kwon and linebacker Zach Lyon, prevented the Maroons from gaining any positive yards in the whole quarter. Senior defensive end Justin Williams got a huge third down sack on the drive following the touchdown, keeping all the momentum with the Spartans.

The Spartan offense took over near the end of the quarter and eventually scored on a Cuda run on the first play of the fourth. Cuda led all Spartans with 65 rushing yards, showing his dual threat ability. CWRU converted a key fourth down on the drive as well as a third and long to set up the touchdown scamper, increasing the lead to 14.

On the ensuing drive, Chicago responded with Moser eventually finding Syd Reynolds in the back of the end zone for his first touchdown, cutting the Spartans lead in half. After a CWRU punt, Moser once again led Chicago on a scoring drive, tying the game at 24. A Chandler Carroll 31-yard run, one of Chicago’s five big plays, set up the score.

The Spartans responded with a big touchdown of their own, a 70-yard pass from Cuda to Erb, who finished with four catches and 96 yards. Unfortunately for the CWRU faithful, the extra point attempt was no good, giving the Spartans only a six-point lead and five minutes to defend it.

A fateful roughing the passer penalty against the Spartans gave Chicago new life on their next drive as two plays later they took their first and only lead on another pass to Reynolds. The Spartans almost had a comeback as Cuda led the team to Chicago’s 48, but when a fourth down pass fell to the turf, the comeback ended.

The Spartans play host to the Saint Vincent Bearcats (0-1) in a Presidents’ Athletic Conference clash on Sept. 19. The Spartans look to avenge last season’s three-point defeat at St. Vincent.