Phan-tastic way to start the year

Football dominates University of Chicago to begin season


Leah Klafczynski

Justin Phan evades Chicago tacklers on his way to the end zone during his punt return touchdown.

Talk about getting revenge. The Case Western Reserve University football team destroyed the University of Chicago 45-17 in a non-conference home game to start the season, avenging a heartbreaking one-point loss from a year ago. The Spartans started the season off 1-0 while the Maroons dropped to 0-1.

Chicago started off the game with a 10 play drive, but only got a field goal to show for it. Then the “Cleveland Air Show,” led by third-year quarterback Rob Cuda, took over. On the Spartans first play from scrimmage, the dual-threat signal caller ran for 22 yards. Nine plays later, he found fourth-year wide receiver Brendan Lynch in the back of the end zone to give the Spartans a 7-3 lead.

After that, the team never looked back. CWRU scored two more touchdowns before Chicago put any more points on the board.

The first score was a one-yard Cuda sneak, his first of two rushing touchdowns, on third and goal. Getting the Spartans into the red zone were two big plays: a 36-yard pass to second-year wide receiver Justin Phan and an 18-yard run by third-year running back Myles Anthony.

Phan was the focal point of the second score. After the Spartans defense stopped Chicago on third down, the Maroons brought on the punt team. Little did they know this would be a big mistake.

Phan caught the ball at the CWRU 15 yard line. He looked pinned against the sideline and faced a swarm of Maroons. After juking out defenders and cutting through tackles, Phan had a field of green grass in front of him. He ran diagonally toward the other sideline, directing blockers along the way. A block on the punter by third-year cornerback Adrian Cannon at the 20 yard line was the last thing Phan needed to reach the end zone, putting the Spartans up 21-3.

How did Phan escape all the Chicago defenders? “A little patience and a lot of luck,” he said. “There’s no way I could’ve done it without the blockers in front of me and the ones behind me.”

The 85-yard punt return touchdown was the second longest in team history, only two yards short of the record. It earned Phan three accolades. He was named athlete of the week in special teams in two conferences and made the team of the week as a returner.

Chicago responded with a touchdown of their own as fourth-year quarterback Burke Moser found third-year running back Chandler Carroll in the end zone on a five-yard pass.

The Spartans scored on their fourth consecutive possession bringing the lead back up to 18. Cuda found Lynch for 18 yards on third and 17 to extend the drive, then on the next play, found him again for 31 yards. A few plays later, the Spartans found the end zone. Cuda threw a two-yard strike to Lynch to cap off the drive. The wideout finished the day with seven catches and 76 yards, leading all CWRU pass catchers.

With 36 seconds left before halftime, Chicago cut the lead to 28-17. Moser scrambled for a two-yard touchdown, the last time the Maroons would score.

In the second half, the Spartans’ defense was rock solid. They limited Chicago to just 102 yards and came up with two big fourth down stops. CWRU solved the underneath passing game that was plaguing them in the first two quarters.

Fourth-year cornerback and team captain Nick Kwon guided the defensive unit. He finished the game with five tackles and three pass deflections. Third-year linebacker Andrew Banathy led the team with 11 tackles while fourth-year linebacker Zach Lyon recorded eight tackles and half a sack.

The team limited Carroll to only 74 yards rushing and the Maroons had a total of only 71 yards on the ground the entire day.

The Spartans started the second half with a ten play drive and finished with a one-yard touchdown run by Cuda, his fourth touchdown of the day.

Late in the third quarter, third-year running back Aaron Aguilar scored his first career touchdown to put the game away for good. His three yard run was set up by a 52-yard pass to third-year fullback and punter Jacob Burke. The Spartans led 42-17 after Aguilar found the end zone and would add a 35-yard Ben Carniol field goal in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.

Cuda played one of his best career games, completing 17 of 21 passes for 217 yards. He also led all rushers with 125 yards, his third career game with at least 100 yards rushing. A lot of credit goes to the experienced offensive line. Cuda faced very little pressure and was only sacked once. They also opened up a lot of holes for the quarterback to run through.

After a bye this week, CWRU starts Presidents’ Athletic Conference play at Grove City (0-1) on Sept. 17.