Football team dominates for seventh straight win


Matt Chasney

Wide receivers Giuseppe Orsini and Joey Spitalli celebrate following a touchdown earlier in the season.

For the seventh consecutive game, the Spartans trotted out on the field. And for the seventh consecutive game, the outcome never really seemed in doubt. Case Western Reserve University was victorious again, as the football team improved to 7-0 on the season and 6-0 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) with a 45-7 dismantling of Geneva College on Saturday, Oct. 21. After going up 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, the team never looked back and cruised to victory.

The Spartans defense, one of the best in the country, once again shut down the opposing team. The unit corralled the Golden Tornadoes in an unusual way, securing a season-high six turnovers. CWRU forced four fumbles, including one returned for a touchdown, and snagged two interceptions.

Fourth-year linebacker Justin McMahon, who scored his first career touchdown on a 68 yard fumble recovery, said, “A big emphasis for us this week was, when the ball’s on the ground, we got to get it. It’s got to be our ball.”

He added, “As a defense, we’ve been waiting for the turnovers to come … when the ball came our way, we started making those plays.”

McMahon’s score came on the final play of the first quarter. A botched snap left the ball on the ground, and the always-quick-to-react McMahon picked it up and started running to the end zone. There was just one Geneva player standing in his way, but there were at least five Spartans running ahead to block. After one simple cut downfield, the Spartans were up by three scores.

“I was pretty hyped about it,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. Anytime the defense scores, you just get excited.”

In addition to the defensive touchdown, McMahon led the team with 10 tackles and contributed 1.5 tackles for loss. For his efforts, the inside linebacker earned both PAC and University Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Week Awards. Though he considers the awards “cool” and was “honored” to receive them, McMahon credits the whole defensive unit for allowing him to make the big plays. He mentioned that any time a player receives an individual award, it’s part of everyone in the unit doing their job and making plays.

Fourth-year defensive lineman Ian Henderson was yet again a force in the middle of the line, disrupting the Golden Tornadoes’ rushing attack. Head Coach Greg Debeljak called him “a huge difference-maker” and a “disruptive force” against Geneva, with the large, athletic lineman interrupting many rushing plays. Geneva could not seem to stop Henderson from breaking through the line.  

Overall, the CWRU defense held the leading rusher in Division III, third-year running back Trewon Marshall, to just 53 yards, and the Golden Tornadoes’ triple option attack managed just 220 rushing yards for the game. Debeljak pointed to the unit’s ability to play their assignment well and the “well thought-out” game plan from Defensive Coordinator Warren Miller.

Following a CWRU touchdown, the Spartan defense set the tone for the rest of the game by stopping a fake punt attempt on Geneva’s opening drive. The stop set the team’s offense up in great field position, and the unit capitalized, scoring a touchdown three plays later. As McMahon said, “To give [the offense] a short field, makes it that much easier for them.”

The plethora of turnovers  set up the offense in good field position throughout the contest, and the team responded by scoring on every drive but three in the first half and not punting until the fourth quarter. Fourth-year quarterback Rob Cuda was efficient, completing 12 of 19 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown.

He also added 60 yards and two touchdowns on the ground as part of a concerted effort to get him involved in the running game. It was just Cuda’s second game with more than 25 yards on the ground, as the coaching staff has been trying to limit the number of hits the quarterback took early in the season. On the Spartans opening possession, the team marched 63 yards downfield with 56 of those yards coming from Cuda on the ground.

The second score came via the air as Cuda found third-year wide receiver Justin Phan from nine yards out. Phan now leads the team with five receiving touchdowns, as 11 different Spartans have caught a touchdown pass this season.

Fourth-year running back Jacob Burke plunged ahead from three yards out for his first of two scores early in the second quarter. The touchdown increased the Spartans’ lead to 28, virtually insurmountable against one of the top defenses in the country.

Debeljak said he was “very happy” with the play of his team, especially on defense. He also added, that despite the two interceptions, the offense played efficiently.

On Saturday, Oct. 28, CWRU takes a break from PAC play to battle Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) at DiSanto Field. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

Though the Bears are just 2-5 on the season, they have played the third toughest schedule of any Division III school. Debeljak says the team cannot look past WashU to a conference battle with Westminster University, as the Bears are always a well-coached and disciplined team that play well against CWRU.  

Conditions at game time are expected to be cold (mid 40s) and rainy (55 percent chance of precipitation). CWRU has not faced such tough conditions so far this season, but Debeljak is confident the team will be able to successfully navigate the conditions.

“We should be fine. We have experienced guys, a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in a lot of different conditions,” he said.

Those Spartans fans courageous enough to brave the conditions can watch the Spartans try for their eighth straight win.