Spartans stop Bison in their tracks


Daniel Brenner

CWRU defensive linemen await the snap from Bethany

In front of their largest crowd of the season, the Spartans football team produced its largest victory of the year, a 33-3 Homecoming win over Bethany College on Oct. 7. Leading the way for Case Western Reserve University were fourth-year quarterback Rob Cuda (299 yards, four total touchdowns), fourth-year linebacker Andrew Banathy (seven tackles, one sack) and fourth-year wide receiver Zak Hurd (four receptions, 89 yards). With the win, the No. 16 Spartans improved to 5-0 on the season and 4-0 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC).

“It was just enjoyable. [It’s] always nice having a solid home crowd and being able to get a win,” said fourth-year linebacker Justin McMahon. “It was cool to be able to get a win in front of [members of the 2007-2009 football teams].”

Once again, the CWRU defense shut down their opponents’ attack, limiting the Bison to just 159 total yards and one third down conversion in 12 attempts. On the season, opponents have converted just 18 percent of the third down conversion attempts against the Spartans, the lowest mark in all of Division III. Bethany could not seem to move the ball against the Spartans defense, with their only scoring drive lasting just seven yards as they capitalized on a CWRU fumble.

“That was one of our most complete defensive performances of the year,” said McMahon. “Across the board, we were fundamentally and schematically sound.”

Meanwhile the CWRU offense started slow, but picked up enough steam to put 20 points on the board in the first half. The Spartans’ first drive looked promising, but stalled at the Bethany 13-yard line. Fourth-year kicker Ben Carniol converted a 30 yard field goal, his first of the season, to give the Spartans an early lead.

Head Coach Greg Debeljak said, “The defenses we’ve faced [in] the last three games are playing totally different than we’ve seen on film, so it has taken us a little time to adjust. Once we adjusted, I think we did fairly well.”

The second quarter proved to be a lot better for the offense, as the Spartans scored on both the first and last plays of the quarter. To start the period, the Spartans finally scored a touchdown as Cuda faded a perfect pass to second-year tight end Adam Zybko in the back corner of the end zone to give the Spartans a 10 point lead. The following drive, CWRU converted fourth down and, two plays later, Cuda plunged into the end zone for a rushing touchdown. Carniol kicked a field goal as time expired in the half, as the teams went to the locker rooms with CWRU leading 20-3.

In each of the following quarters, Cuda threw a touchdown pass. The first was to third-year wide receiver Justin Phan on the team’s first drive of the second half, while the second went to fourth-year running back Aaron Aguilar on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was Aguilar’s fourth touchdown reception of the season and the fifth for Spartan running backs this year.

“It’s tough to account for the fullback in a two back set down near the goal line,” said Debeljak. “It’s an easy score.”

The Spartans embark on a two-game road trip and do not return to DiSanto Field until Oct. 28. On Oct. 14, the team takes the almost two hour drive to Greenville, Pennsylvania to take on Thiel College. The Tomcats are 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the PAC. Third-year running back Nick Barca will provide a big challenge to the Spartans rushing defense, as one of the best in the country this year. Barca averages 145 yards per game on the ground, second in the PAC, and 5.6 yards per carry. He will be the toughest test of the season for the vaunted Spartans run defense.

“It’s going to be a challenge, of course,” McMahon said. “I’m looking forward to it… It’s another chance to allow us to prove ourselves.”

While the defense will be trying to rise up to the occasion, the offense will be hoping to play mistake-free for the first time all season. The team has committed a turnover in all five of their games and at least two in three of those contests. Debeljak calls the turnovers “an issue” and “self-inflicted wounds.”