It has been 71 years since the Maroons played Big Ten football, but second-year Dee Brizzolara’s stunning 46-yard touchdown catch-and-run brought back memories of the glory years as the Maroons upset undefeated and 23-ranked Case Western 24–20, ending the Spartans’ 38-game regular-season winning streak.
Without fourth-year Clay Wolff, half of the receiving corps dynamic duo, the Maroons (6–2, 1–0) struggled to complete passes in their opening game of conference play and looked overwhelmed in the first quarter.
The offense went three and out on the game’s first possession before Case’s star quarterback Joey Baum finished off a 45-yard scoring drive with a six-yard run. The Spartans (7–1, 0–1) could have put the game away after intercepting fourth-year quarterback Marshall Oium at Chicago’s 24-yard line, but the Maroons defense made a stand at fourth and one, foreshadowing an excellent performance in which Baum was picked thrice and sacked six times.
“I don’t know exactly where we rank in tackles for a loss, but I know it’s up there. Our defensive front has been outstanding this season and they kept at it against Case,” coach Dick Maloney said. “They put pressure on the quarterback throughout the game. Besides the sacks, there were a number of times he was hurried or hit just after the throw. That allowed our cornerbacks and safeties to hold coverage and make some big plays.”
None was bigger than third-year cornerback Emmett Carrier’s interception and 43-yard touchdown return early in the fourth quarter. After the pick-six, second-year Jeff Sauer missed his second extra point of the day, leaving the Maroons trailing by a point, 13–12.
As the game progressed, the defenses soon gave way. Case scored after driving 65 yards to go ahead 20–12. The Maroons responded immediately, as Oium overcame windy conditions and a packed Spartans secondary to find Brizzolara for a 52-yard touchdown pass with 7:13 on the clock. But Oium was stopped on the goal line trying to make a 2-point conversion and Case kept the lead.
Four possessions later, the Maroons found themselves facing fourth and eight near midfield with less than two minutes remaining. As Oium said, “With time running out and needing to score, I figured I would throw the ball to the best receiver on the field and see if he could make a play to get us back in the game.”
Video of Dee Brizzolara's 46-yard touchdown reception, which gave the Maroons a 24–20 lead—their first of the game—with 1:18 left on the game clock. Chicago halted Case's next drive to squeak out a four-point victory.
His quick pass to Brizzolara was caught on the right sideline just past Case’s 30-yard line. The Maroons’ top kick and punt-returner quickly broke a tackle before cutting infield to evade several more Spartan defenders. At the 15-yard line, Case safety Lucas Sasala attempted a diving tackle. He grabbed Brizzolara around the thigh, but only succeeded in changing the receiver’s direction and setting a roadblock that gave Brizzolara a free path to the winning touchdown.
“We knew what defense they were running and Marshall made a great read and throw to get me the ball,” Brizzolara said. “At first it was relief because we had the first down, so at the very least the drive was still alive, but after I made the safety miss, I told myself I was scoring.”
Case still had 1:18 to stage a comeback and managed to reach the Maroons’ 39-yard line. But third-year linebacker Danny Polaneczky sacked Baum for his 13th tackle, effectively ending the game and putting himself in contention for his third UAA player of the week title.
With the UAA season consisting of just three games, one result can decide the conference championship. Despite knocking off the favorite, the Maroons still have difficult games ahead.
“Wash U is 6–2 just like us, so they have a real shot next week when they play Case,” Maloney said. “And though Carnegie Mellon is 4–4, they lost their last two games in overtime, so with a bit of luck they also could be 6–2, so we’re expecting a very evenly matched game at their place Saturday.”
Should Chicago and Wash U. both claim victories this weekend, it would set up a winner-takes-all showdown November 13 at Stagg Field. As Oium said, “Playing for the Founder’s Cup, the UAA Title, and a shot at making it to [the Division III] playoffs for the first time in school history is going to make that possible game very difficult.”