Football’s season ends with a 24-6 road loss to CMU


Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

Third-year runningback Antonio Orsini (pictured) rushed for 111 yards and scored a touchdown on 15 carries during the Spartans’ final game of the season.

Gaurav Hardikar, Staff Writer

This past weekend, the Case Western Reserve University football team traveled to Pittsburgh to take on Carnegie Mellon University for the final game of their season.

The Spartans had a tumultuous season, winning their first two games and losing their next three. However, they entered their last game red-hot, winning the last four games and outscoring their opponents 160-71 in that span.

The CMU Tartans got the first possession and immediately went to their ground game. Second-year running back Tre Vasiliadis picked up 7, then 15, then 4 yards on three straight runs. CMU’s offense fell apart as soon as they abandoned the run, though, with two straight incompletions leading to a punt.

CWRU essentially followed their opponents’ formula on their first possession, down to the punt. Third-year running back Antonio Orsini ran the ball for 9 yards before second-year running back Sean-Michael James carried the ball for a yard. The Spartans went back to Orsini, who also ran the ball for a yard before the offense opted to get the passing game going. Fourth-year quarterback Drew Saxton threw an incomplete pass before connecting with Orsini on a 7-yard pass that forced the Spartans to punt the ball back to the home team.

The CWRU defense continued to show out, forcing a 3-and-out after two more incomplete passes from the CMU quarterback, second-year Ben Mills, and a short run from Vasiliadis. Even better for the Spartans, the punt was an atrocious one, traveling only 13 yards and giving CWRU the ball at the CMU 35-yard line. CWRU inexplicably came up empty, as Orsini carried the ball 3 times for 5 yards and Saxton threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5 to turn the ball over on downs.

Mills and Vasiliadis went to work on the ensuing drive, working in tandem en route to a Tartan touchdown. Vasiliadis racked up 43 yards on 6 carries, while Mills went 4/4 for 26 yards in the air. At the tail end of the drive, Mills punched it in by himself, carrying the ball for a 1 yard rushing touchdown.

After the Tartans kicker nailed the extra point, CWRU got the ball back trailing 7-0 with 24 seconds left in the first quarter. Saxton used this time effectively, immediately finding third-year wide receiver Aidan Cain on a 17-yard strike. Saxton continued to impress to begin the second quarter, hitting third-year wide receiver Lucas DeCaro for an 11-yard completion. On the next play, Orsini erupted for a 57-yard rushing touchdown, rumbling downfield to put the Spartans in position to tie the game. Unfortunately, a missed extra point helped the home team preserve the lead.

CMU went back to relying on the run game, with Mills getting in on the action. Mills picked up 18 yards on 2 carries, but an incomplete pass led to another fourth down scenario. Third-year punter Casey Jaeb tried to redeem himself following the abysmal punt from the first quarter. Unfortunately for Jaeb, the snap was fumbled and he got tackled for a 12-yard loss by second-year Ryan Cabrera and fourth-year Alex Glatz, both linebackers, to once again give the Spartans the ball inside the CMU 40-yard line.

The Tartans’ defense continued to bail out their special teams, as third-year cornerback Kevin Arcia picked off Saxton in the red zone just 4 plays into the drive. Vasiliadis continued to shoulder the load from there, rushing for 49 yards on 7 attempts. Mills ended the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to first-year halfback Matthew Evert, pushing the lead to 14-6.

Unfortunately, CWRU’s shot at a game-tying drive culminated in another interception, as second-year CMU linebacker Kevin Cooke came up with a takeaway in Spartan territory. Given the short field, the CWRU defense did what they could to prevent a touchdown, and the Tartans walked away with a 40-yard field goal to end the half with a 17-6 lead.

The Spartans began the second half with the ball and a chance to cut down their 11-point deficit. Following 11 rushing yards from Orsini on 2 carries, Saxton hit second-year wide receiver Riley Knurek for a 28-yard completion to take the offense well into scoring range. An incomplete pass and 2 more runs from Orsini had the Spartans facing a fourth-and-1 situation. Instead of settling for a field goal, which would’ve put the team within 1 score, they boldly opted to go for a first down conversion. 

The Tartan defense had other plans: Second-year linebacker Robert Coury and second-year nose tackle Alexander Nelson stuffed Saxton short of the gain line, and CWRU handed the ball right back to CMU with nothing to show for their drive.

Though the Spartans defense did well enough on the resultant opponent possession, barely allowing the Tartans into CWRU territory, the punt they forced ended disastrously. Second-year Kevin O’Brien recovered a fumbled punt return for CMU at the Spartans’ 21-yard line. The Tartans gained just 8 yards before attempting a 30-yard field goal. The miss kept CWRU in the game and gave them the ball deep in their own territory.

The offense’s woes continued, as Saxton led the team 24 yards downfield only for the Tartans’ fourth-year safety Nick Cizik to pick him off. Saxton’s third interception of the game gave CMU a drive that carried into the final quarter of the season. However, a solid defensive outing by the CWRU defense forced a punt out of the Tartans.

Pinned at their own 1-yard line, the Spartans were once again victimized by the Tartan ballhawks, as third-year safety Aryan Hegde recorded Saxton’s fourth interception of the day. A CWRU penalty moved their opponents up to the CWRU 6-yard line, essentially giving them a touchdown. Vasiliadis barreled in the endzone for a 1-yard rushing score to put CMU up 24-6.

Down by 18 late in the game, the Spartans had no choice but to resort to the passing game. Saxton threw the ball 7 times on the drive, picking up 68 yards before the Tartans defense continued to have a field day, as second-year linebacker Logan Young intercepted the ball in the endzone for a CMU touchback. 

The Spartans defense forced a 3-and-out in an attempt at damage control, but their offense continued to have a nightmarish performance, as they put together a 41-yard drive only for fourth-year defensive end Rocky Chirieleison to sack Saxton on fourth-and-2 for yet another turnover.  

With just under a minute and a half to go, the Tartans ran the ball to run out the clock, finishing the season at 8-2. 

Perhaps the only notable performances from CWRU were by Orsini and Cain. Orsini picked up 111 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, 17 receiving yards on 3 catches, and 57 return yards on 3 kickoff returns. Cain had 9 catches for 99 yards and returned a punt for another 6 yards.

With 3 fewer wins than in 2019, their last full season, ending with a 6-4 overall record, the Spartans definitely have room for improvement as they head into the offseason. However, CWRU still enjoyed a winning season and an impressive win streak that will motivate the team to aim even higher next year.