Defense fails to tame Tigers in 24-point loss

By Sam Zacher

If you can have an encouraging loss in a 41–17 game, the Maroons did so on Saturday against Wittenberg. Chicago’s chances at victory dwindled after a slow start, but they still fought hard and showed they would be a force to be reckoned with the rest of the season.

“Wittenberg’s a football powerhouse,” head coach Dick Maloney said. “They’ve got talented players, and it’s a hostile playing environment.”

Chicago fell behind 13­–0 in the first quarter, and the deficit proved too great to overcome.

In the second quarter, trailing 20–0, the Maroons needed a spark, so the coaches dialed up a fake punt. “Jeff [Sauer] caught the snap, took one step as if to punt the ball away, and tossed a 30-some-yard gainer to Ben Wade, who was wide open,” Maloney said. “That seemed to inspire the offense.”

Chicago scored on that drive and added a field goal just before the second quarter came to a close, entering the half down 27–10, and trying to build momentum. “We drew up some different routes at halftime to attack them,” third-year quarterback Vincent Cortina said. “Also, [Coach Knoche] switched me to shotgun, which allowed me to see the blitz more clearly and get the ball off in time.”

In the second half, the offense picked up. Cortina led a solid passing attack, finishing the game 28–50 with 279 yards passing and two touchdowns. Fourth-year tight end Brandon Meckelberg also picked up the first-half slack, catching nine passes for 86 yards and one score, while fourth-year wideout Dee Brizzolara continued his impressive career, hauling in seven receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.

However, to Chicago’s dismay, Wittenberg’s momentum carried through the second half, as they continued to score and held the Maroons to only seven second-half points. “We have to work on finishing inside the red zone,” Maloney said. “In addition, we can’t let teams get away with converting on third downs.” Wittenberg had several third-and-long plays in which they gained enough for the first down.

“We did some good things on offense, but it was a very frustrating loss,” fourth-year punter Jeff Sauer said. “The whole team just needs to play well for all four quarters.”

While the game had an unfavorable outcome, there were some positives, most notably among them Chicago’s lack of turnovers and Sauer’s continued solid special teams performance. Sauer converted his only field goal attempt, boomed four punts for a 42-yard average and a long of 52, and also completed the fake punt-pass that sparked the offense. “We just have to improve the D, and we’ll be good for next week and the rest of the season,” said Maloney.

After falling to 3–3 on the season, the Maroons will take on Hiram on the road next Saturday at 12 p.m.