Football drops regular season finale 20-7 to undefeated CMU


Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

In their final game of the season, the CWRU football team honored its 17 seniors and their families before kickoff.

Gaurav Hardikar, Staff Writer

On Saturday Nov. 12, the Case Western Reserve University football team hosted Carnegie Mellon University in their final game of the season.

The Tartans entered the game with a formidable 9-0 record, whereas the 6-3 Spartans came to DiSanto Field looking to spoil their rival’s quest for an undefeated season. With a daunting task ahead of them, the Spartans offense took the field first in front of over 2000 spectators. 

CMU’s defense won the first battle, forcing a three-and-out from the home team. Fortunately, the CWRU defense did the same to give their offense the ball right back.

The next drive ended catastrophically for the Spartans. Facing third-and-12 on their own 21-yard line, they tried a pass play for the first down conversion. Third-year Tartans linebacker Logan Young came in flying and sacked second-year quarterback Ian Kipp. He managed to strip the football from Kipp, recovering it to give CMU possession one yard from the end zone. The Tartan offense punched the ball in with a rushing touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

CWRU’s offensive struggles continued in the next drive, as the team picked up just 25 yards and two first downs before punting again. The defense, however, remained strong as third-year defensive lineman AJ Dudowski sacked CMU’s quarterback on third down to bring out the Tartan punting unit. Just when it seemed as though the Spartans were on the verge of scoring, CMU’s defense struck once more with another strip sack on Kipp. This fumble, forced by second-year defensive end Mitchell Stokey and recovered by fourth-year defensive end Ben Coyne, gave the Tartans the ball back at their own 39-yard line.

The Spartans run defense stifled the Tartans to another three-and-out. The next possession for CWRU featured a 12-yard pass from Kipp to second-year wide receiver Noah Coyne and back-to-back runs from fourth-year running back Antonio Orsini for 21 yards. Inside Tartan territory and desperate for points, the Spartans attempted a fourth down conversion with 3 yards to go. Unfortunately, the CMU’s pass rush continued to haunt Kipp, who was sacked by third-year inside linebacker Robert Coury to turn the ball over near midfield.

As the game carried into the second quarter, the Spartans responded with a fourth down stop of their own. On fourth-and-2 in the red zone, third-year linebacker Gabe Troch came up huge for the Spartans, stifling third-year running back Tre Vasiliadis into a one-yard carry to force a turnover on downs. CWRU remained lifeless on offense, however, punting after another three-play possession that lost them six yards. The punt gave the visitors the ball on the Spartans’ side of the field, and the Tartans scored a touchdown just four plays later with a 25-yard pass to gain the 14-0 advantage.

The Spartans quickly picked up steam on the ensuing drive. Kipp hit Coyne for a 29-yard completion and then ran the ball for a crucial first down conversion on fourth-and-1. Orsini broke off an 18-yard run to get the Spartans into touchdown territory, but disaster struck once again. Facing fourth-and-3 with just 10 yards to go, Kipp threw an incomplete pass, causing another turnover by the CWRU offense.

The Spartans defense kept the team in the game, limiting the Tartans to just a one-yard gain on their next possession. Yet the home offense put up an identically stagnant drive despite being given the ball near midfield. The teams traded three-and-outs once more before a vital sack by CWRU’s third-year defensive lineman Kaden Tong took CMU out of field goal range at halftime.

Though the Tartans got the ball to begin the second half, CWRU’s second-year defensive back Nate Cikalo made his presence felt immediately; he tackled Vasiliadis for a loss of nine yards, forcing CMU to punt. Trailing by two scores and with the possession near midfield, the Spartans offense finally made its way into the end zone. Orsini and first-year quarterback Aaron Filips controlled the drive, with each yard coming from the running game. Orsini picked up 28 yards on five carries, including one for 9 yards. The remaining 25 yards that Filips picked up were highlighted by an 18-yard sprint to CMU’s 3-yard line which was followed by a rushing touchdown on the next play.

Down 14-7, the Spartans looked to their defense for a stop. Though a 37-yard completion on the second play of the Tartans’ drive brought them into field goal range, CMU missed the 43-yard field goal attempt, giving CWRU the ball back at their own 26 yard line.

With a chance to tie the game, Filips and the Spartan offense took the field once more. The impressive drive, featuring 8 and 9-yard carries from Filips, a 14-yard pass to fourth-year wide receiver Michael Wojkowski and a 16-yard pass to Coyne, brought the Spartans into field goal range. Given the offense’s difficulty in converting fourth downs, the Spartans attempted the 37-yard field goal attempt. But Tartan linebacker Young wreaked havoc again, blocking the kick and giving the Tartans the ball at their own 8-yard line.

The Spartans defense, fatigued from carrying the anemic offense, was unable to hold on as the game made its way into the fourth quarter. CMU put together an impressive 13-play, 92-yard drive that ate over 5:30 off the clock and ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass. Though the kicker missed the extra point kick, CWRU was staring at a 20-7 deficit with under 14 minutes remaining. Even worse, the offense went three-and-out on their next possession. CMU running back Vasiliadis sprinted a discouraging 34-yard run on the subsequent drive, but back-to-back holding penalties on the Tartans let them run down the clock a bit before punting.

Filips continued to play as a dual threat, with impressive completions to third-year wide receiver Isaiah Arrington for 11 yards and Wojkowski for 19 yards all while recording a 14-yard run. However, three straight incomplete passes put CWRU in a fourth-and-10 situation at CMU’s 20-yard line. Ben Coyne, who had already recovered a fumble following the second Kipp strip sack, recorded a strip sack of his own to force a fatal turnover for the Spartans. The ball was recovered by CMU third-year inside linebacker Kevin Cooke at CMU’s 32-yard line.

The Tartans decided to run the ball for their final drive, with Vasiliadis picking up 16 yards and leaving just 22 seconds on the clock for the Spartans’ final drive, who still trailed by 13. Though Filips found Coyne for a 26-yard completion, time expired before CWRU could get within scoring range.

CMU finished a perfect 10-0 on the season and returned to Pittsburgh to prepare for the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament. They will host the 9-1 DePauw University Tigers on Nov. 19. The Spartans finished their 2022 season at 6-4 and are No. 5 out of 11 teams in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

Though the Spartans’ season ended in disappointing fashion, the team still has much to be proud about. A winning record, an average win margin of 25.6 points per game and two separate three-win streaks indicate that the program is moving in the right direction. While the 2021 Spartans finished with the same 6-4 record, their win margin was 21.5 points per game in a season that featured a three-loss streak and one more loss within the PAC.

The NCAA DIII football tournament begins on Nov. 19 at 12:00 PM EST.