Spartans swat Yellow Jackets


Henry Bendon

Jacob Burke, pitcured here after just receiving a handoff, ran over the century mark and scored three touchdowns.

For the second straight week, the Spartans cruised over a weaker opponent under the lights at DiSanto Field as the No. 18 football team defeated Waynesburg University 56-21. With the win on Sept. 23, Case Western Reserve University improved to 3-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) while Waynesburg dropped to 0-4 on the year with their fourth consecutive loss.

The Spartan offense exploded against the Yellow Jackets with nearly 600 yards of total offense, as Waynesburg seemingly had no answer for both fourth-year running back Jacob Burke and fourth-year quarterback Rob Cuda. Burke ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns, while Cuda completed 17 of his 26 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Both players rested for the fourth quarter as CWRU held a 42-14 lead going into the final frame.

Head Coach Greg Debeljak explained the team’s balance was key to their success.

“Everything’s working together and we’re just better because of it,” he said.

He also pointed to the offensive line’s success against Waynesburg as the main reason for the offense’s high outburst.

“The line played very well, definitely their best game of the year,” he said.

Fourth-year offensive lineman Ryan Merlau said the reason for the line’s success was their focus on the small aspects of the game, including footwork and blocking the nose tackle.

“We really focused on hitting the little things, getting steps right, covering guys up,” he said. “We were just covering dudes up when we needed to.”

CWRU started the scoring with Burke’s first touchdown of the game, a six yard burst through the middle of the Spartan line. Burke fought off multiple Yellow Jackets on his way to the end zone, a common sight throughout the game. Waynesburg could not bring the Spartan running back down; he would consistently break tackles on rushes and continue rushing while dragging defenders with him.

Merlau called Burke “an excellent guy” and “an amazing teammate.”

“He runs angry every game, and that’s all you could ask for as an offensive lineman,” he continued.

Burke’s solid day on the ground helped to set up multiple play action passes for Cuda, including a six yard touchdown pass to fourth-year running back Aaron Aguilar to finish off the Spartans’ next drive. Cuda faked a handoff to the left, with Burke and the whole offensive line going in that direction. Meanwhile, Aguilar went to the flat on the right side of the field and Cuda tossed a perfect pass to him with a defender in his face. Moments later, CWRU held a 14-0 lead.

Defensively, the Spartans were strong for the third consecutive game, despite the 21 points allowed. Waynesburg’s first score wasn’t until there were four minutes remaining in the first half. The Yellow Jackets were held to an astounding negative four rushing yards in the half.

“That’s something we pride ourselves in: our run defense… If we can make an offense one-dimensional, then that opens up our whole defensive scheme,” said fourth-year linebacker Justin McMahon.

The defense also set up the Spartans offense with an interception late in the second quarter.

Fourth-year linebacker Alex Habeeb reached up and grabbed a tipped pass from the Waynesburg quarterback at the 29 yard line and snagged the second interception of his career. On the following play, Cuda found third-year wide receiver Justin Phan in the end zone for the Spartans’ fourth score of the game. Phan finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards, both team highs.

“That interception ignited us,” said Debeljak. “It was a spark that we needed.”

McMahon agreed, saying, “It got the excitement going, and it got our juices flowing on defense. It was awesome.”

Waynesburg started the second half by cutting the Spartans’ lead to just two scores with a 13 yard touchdown pass. Two plays prior, Yellow Jackets third-year running back Austin Wilson took off for a 54 yard rush, with a touchdown saving tackle by fourth-year safety Daniel Fabiniak.

CWRU responded with a touchdown drive of its own later in the quarter. Three plays after Cuda converted a crucial fourth down with a 13 yard run, Burke barrelled in with his third score of the game on a two yard rush.

On their next drive, the Spartans sealed the game with a touchdown on the last play of the half when Cuda found Aguilar from nine yards out. Setting up the score were two big plays: a 42 yard Cuda pass to Aguilar and a 23 yard run by fourth-year running back Myles Anthony.

Next week, the Spartans travel to Pennsylvania to take on Saint Vincent College in their third PAC contest of the season. The Bearcats are coming off a loss to Grove City College and enter the contest 2-2 with a 1-1 record in PAC play.

One aspect of the game to watch is the speed of the Bearcats. Debeljak said Saint Vincent has “the fastest athletes in the conference,” and that the Spartans defense needs to keep everything in front of them in order to contain the offense.