SPORTS

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October 24, 2006

Football's title defense ends quietly at Carnegie

Sometimes the faster they rise, the harder they fall. After blitzing through the UAA last season to claim the league title, the Maroons’ hold on the championship trophy came to an end this fall, as injuries and a pair of big losses kept them out of title contention.

Losing for the fourth time in five games, Chicago (2–4, 0–2 UAA) continued its offensive woes Saturday, falling 27–0 to Carnegie Mellon (7–0, 2–0) in Pittsburgh. The Maroons managed to keep the score close for much of the game, but the Maroons’ big-play offense was unable to execute when it mattered most. Their struggles in the red zone have cost them dearly during their current three-game losing streak, as opponents have outscored the Maroons 84–13 in that stretch.

“There was nothing really surprising either way. It really comes down to execution,” head coach Dick Maloney said. “We had hoped that defensively we might be able to get them into some long situations because they’re a running team.”

After a scoreless first quarter highlighted by a key fourth-down stop by the Maroons at their own three-yard line, the Tartans broke through on their first possession of the second quarter. Starting the drive with generous field position after an interception from fourth-year quarterback Matt Rinklin, second-year quarterback Doug Facemyer connected with third-year running back Colby Whitman for a two-yard touchdown and a 6–0 lead.

Although fourth-year kicker Nat Greenstein’s kick was blocked, the home team struck again on their next possession. Catching Chicago’s secondary off guard on second down, Facemyer gunned a 41-yard strike to third-year wide receiver Jeremy Doo for a 12–0 lead. The lone blemish of the half for the Tartans came in the kicking game, as Greenstein’s point after try was blocked once more.

Attempting to get back in the game after the break, Chicago made a couple of adjustments that got the squad to move the ball better. This also gave them better success running the option against the Tartan’s defense, but the Maroons couldn’t get any points on the board. Meanwhile, Carnegie’s offensive persistence paid off as they capitalized on Chicago’s overpursuit of the ball for a pair of big plays.

“What they do offensively is keep going right through their book until they find something that causes you some problems,” Maloney said.

Although the Maroons successfully shut down Carnegie’s aerial attack in the second half, the home team burnt Chicago by running an inside reverse twice for touchdowns. Lining up in their unusual wing–T formation, Carnegie started the play in one direction and then switched the ball off to a wing back, going the other way, catching the Maroons defense off guard.

Boosted by a number of long runs, the Tartans’ nationally sixth-ranked ground game racked up 272 yards on the ground and 421 yards total, while Chicago was limited to just 285 yards. With third-year running back Nick Schey still sidelined with a foot injury, the squad looked to second-year Chuck Little to fill in for the injured running back and also for Rinklin to run the ball a bit more than usual. Little led the squad with a respectable 80 yards on 16 carries while Rinklin tacked on 67 yards on 14 carries. Through the air, Rinklin was just 16-for-33 for 170 yards to go with two interceptions.

“Defensively, they pretty much did what they tried to do a year ago. We were just not as successful in getting big plays,” Maloney said. “I think part of that has to do with missing Nick Schey and his running ability, although Chuck did a nice job.”

Despite some of the lopsided numbers posted by the two offenses, the South Siders had a couple of opportunities to prevent the shutout and make the result more respectable. The Maroons threatened inside the Carnegie 20 yard line three times but missed a field goal and coming up unsuccessfully on two fourth-downs.

“Not being able to execute going in certainly hurt us on offense,” Maloney said. “If we had done what we’re capable of doing and come away with 10 or 17 points in the third, midway through the fourth quarter would have been a dog fight to the end.”

On one of the close calls deep in Tartan territory, an incomplete pass turned the ball over to Carnegie in the final stanza. Two plays later, third-year running back Robert Gimson struck the final nail in Chicago’s coffin with his second touchdown, a 90-yard run that extinguished any hopes the Maroons still harbored.

The Maroons will try to recover from their latest thrashing when they take on Case (3–4, 0–2) Saturday. The two teams will play for a third-place finish in the league as Carnegie and Wash U (5–3, 2–0) battle it out for the title.