SPORTS

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October 3, 2006

Football can't cage DePauw

For football, this weekend’s matchup with DePauw was supposed to be a measuring stick for how much the team has improved in recent years. If the final score was any indication, the Maroons have a lot of work left to do.

In its final tuneup before league play, Chicago (2–2) got mauled 31–6 by the Tigers (3–1) on a stormy Saturday afternoon at Stagg. After committing several costly mistakes in the early going, the Maroons came apart against DePauw’s power running game and surprisingly efficient aerial attack. The end result was nearly identical to the 33–9 thrashing the Maroons were dealt last year in Greencastle.

It was apparent from the opening kickoff that the Maroons were going to have their hands full with the tenacious Tigers. On the game’s first possession, DePauw drove 57 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive off with 35-yard field goal from fourth-year Tyler Mallory. Any consolation the Maroons may have taken from their feeble defensive stand quickly evaporated on the ensuing kickoff.

After fielding the ball at his own one, second-year running back Chuck Little advanced only 10 yards before he was met by fourth-year Colin Batko, who jarred the ball loose. The Tigers recovered the fumble, and with the a TD an arm’s length away, needed only two plays to punch the ball into the end zone on a quarterback sneak from first-year Spud Dick.

Down by double digits before they had even touched the ball, the South Siders capitalized on aggressive playcalling to drive into scoring position on their next two possessions but failed to score. Keeping the ball on the ground for much of their first possession, the Maroons marched into DePauw territory, benefiting from a gutsy fourth-and-five reception for third-year wideout Chase Pierson. The foray then stalled inside the ten, however. With first and goal at the five, the Tigers repelled the threatening home squad and Chicago went backwards fast, winding up out of field goal range.

“As an offense we need to become better at finishing drives,” fourth-year quarterback Matt Rinklin said. “We left at least 14 points on the field during the first half of the Elmhurst game and we did the same against DePauw.”

The defense did its job of getting the offense back on the gridiron, forcing the Tigers to go three and out. Taking over the ball, the Maroons orchestrated a nearly identical drive to their first one only to see it end in an equally disappointing fashion. Needing only two yards on fourth down from the DePauw 13, Maloney elected this time to go for the field goal. First-year Ryan Verissimo’s kick was blocked, giving the visitors the ball back and ending Chicago’s charge.

“Ryan is young but he’s very good,” Rinklin said. “Once he begins to feel comfortable I think our kicking game will improve greatly.”

With the clock ticking down on the first half, it looked like the Maroons might escape to their locker room only trailing by 10. Third-year Abe Winkle quickly wiped out that hope, however. In for Dick, the new QB connected with first-year Bryan Mulligan on a quick five-yard slant for a touchdown, giving his squad a daunting 17–0 lead right before the break.

Forced to play catch-up, the Maroons played right into the hands of DePauw in the second half. The Tigers, content to sit back and force Rinklin to beat them, picked off two passes in the third quarter, and prevented Chicago from establishing any sort of rhythm in its spread offense. Conversely, the Maroons defense that had been so impressive in the squad’s first three games struggled to contain DePauw’s relentless ground game. The visitors scored twice more in the second half, on a seven-yard Marks scamper and on a two-yard run from third-year running back Dorius Ford.

“It really became an uphill battle,” Maloney said. “If we come out at halftime and score on the opening drive, it’s a whole new ballgame.”

After a furious thunderstorm forced a 30- minute delay, the Maroons returned and closed out the scoring with a touchdown of their own—a one-yard run from third-year running back Nick Schey—to prevent the blank sheet to make it 31–6.

Struggling against a stingy DePauw pass rush and a tight secondary, Rinklin finished 13 for 29 with 107 yards and 2 interceptions. Aided by an offensive line that has managed to maintain its form despite the loss of fourth-year starter Leon Gordon, Schey was responsible for much of what Chicago managed to muster offensively, carrying the ball 17 times for 56 yards and a score.

Despite sharing time behind center, DePauw’s signal-calling platoon of Dick and Winkle posted respectable if unremarkable numbers that certainly got the job done, combining to complete 15 of 25 passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. Marks finished for the Tigers with 79 yards on 18 carries.

With a bye week this Saturday as they prepare for their UAA opener against Wash U (2–3), the Maroons will have plenty of time to soak in the lessons from this defeat.

“When you play a very good team you have to execute at a high level,” Maloney said. “As a team we have to work at an A-level consistently. We have to be extremely efficient in order to be successful, and at times we were not.”