Football set for repeat behind high-octane offense

By Ben Jervis

Last fall, football season was a tale of two halves. The Maroons stumbled out of the gate with an 0_4 start before winning their last five en route to a UAA title. Having smoothly adapted to major changes on their roster over the off-season, the Maroons have put themselves in a position to make it two in a row.

Tabbed by UAA Coaches along with Wash U. as favorites to take the league crown this year, the Maroons (2–1) are armed with a breadth of new and experienced talent that has ably replaced a few star Maroons no longer with the team.

“We_re excited,_ head coach Dick Maloney said. _They_re a talented group, and we_re playing more efficiently this year._

The Maroons_ success thus far this season has come despite the loss of three athletes who played a pivotal role in last autumn_s resurgence. Fourth-year wideout and 2004 All-UAA selection Micah Dawson, whose 910 career receiving yards ranks him 10th in the program_s modern era record books, underwent surgery in December to repair his shoulder, effectively ending his college career.

_We knew that Micah had a small chance of playing football again,_ Maloney said. _We had to prepare for this season expecting him not to play, so that if he did, it would be a bonus._

Maloney_s offseason preparation has paid off. Dawson_s absence has also allowed younger starters to display their potential. Second-year wideout John Kiernan has shined so far with 11 catches, 8 of which came in Chicago_s effort against Macalester, for 140 yards and one touchdown. Third-year wide receiver Mike Albian is also off to a solid season with as many catches and two touchdowns.

In the rushing game, second-year running back Chuck Little has placed himself near the top of the pack, having scored three touchdowns on 240 yards this season, including two touchdowns during an 86-yard day in the Maroons_ victory over Macalester September 23. He is joined by veteran third-year running back Nick Schey, who ran into the record books in the Maroons_†55–0 season opening victory over Concordia. Schey scored four rushing touchdowns on the day, a feat that tied the program_s modern-era record. On the season, Schey has rushed for 343 yards with 5 scores.

_We started the year with five seniors on offense, a big plus for us,_ Maloney said. _Little has established himself as a quality running back and Albian is a very good receiver in his own right._

Chicago’s defensive line also saw some worrisome changes, but the Maroons have managed to adapt so far. The graduation last spring of the Maroons_ anchors for the previous four seasons, Colin Carrier (A.B. 2006) and Rob Tamillow (A.B. 2006) put third-year linebacker Gaby Fernandez as the primary playmaker on defense. Fernandez has not disappointed so far, compiling 19 tackles, three sacks, and one interception on the season.

_Obviously, Tamillow and Carrier were outstanding and were a big part of our success, so we feel pretty good about where we are defensively right now,_ Maloney said. _You learn to adapt, refine, and tweak the talent that you believe you have._

Chicago has also been able to regularly play two first-years_a rarity in college football_linebackers Jonathan Currie and Chris Leamy. The two are among 23 first-years on the Maroons_†roster this year. While most of them will not see much playing time, they’ll be able to beef up the defensive line if needed.

Although the Maroons have covered any apparent weaknesses in their lines, Chicago’s lone blemish of the season showed that there is still work to be done. The Maroons followed up their resounding home victory with a 23–10 loss to Elmhurst Sept. 16, in which they matched the Bluejays in almost every offensive and defensive category, but failed to come up with big plays when it mattered. After going into the half with a lead, the Maroons let up in the final 30 minutes, allowing Elmhurst to take the lead for good.

The defeat snapped both the Maroons_ six-game winning and the defense_s six-game streak of holding opponents to single digits in scoring, dating back to the 2005 season.

Chicago didn’t let one disappointing performance get to their heads, and they rebounded the following weekend with a decisive 34-–7 win over Macalester. With five games remaining in the season, including a home match against the archrival Wash U. Bears, the Maroons have plenty of time to get started on another long winning streak.

Spotlight on Matt Rinklin

In his final year behind center with Chicago, fourth-year quarterback Matt Rinklin is once again on his way towards a stellar season after last year_s stellar debut. The 6′ 2” 200-pound New York native has excelled in the Maroons’ spread offense, giving defenses headaches with both his arm and his feet. Utilizing seven different receivers already this season, he manages to keep opponents guessing all the while making quick reads and adjustments under pressure. Rinklin also possesses mobility not seen in many pocket passers, as he displayed in last weekend_s victory in Minneapolis where he rushed for 84 yards. With Rinklin at the helm this fall, the Maroons’ high-powered offense is averaging 454 yards per game.