It’s the age-old question in sports: Can the best defense beat the best offense? On Saturday, fans will have another case study for fodder when Chicago’s tight-run blocking looks to shut down the runaway train of Carnegie’s rushing offense.
Looking for their first UAA win since 2005, the Maroons (3–2) host Carnegie Mellon (2–4) in Saturday’s homecoming weekend action.
These opposite puzzle pieces last fit together in Pittsburgh last fall, where the Tartans blanked Chicago 27–0.
With undefeated Case (6–0) next on the plate for Chicago, the Tartans will be the Maroons’ best bet at getting the first win in the conference column in two years. The South Siders trampled the Tartans 35–6 in 2005 en route to taking the UAA crown, but they have been winless in conference since securing their championship against Case two years ago.
The hallmark of the Saturday’s clash is likely to be a match-up of Carnegie’s prolific rushing offense, the best in the UAA, against Chicago’s brick wall rushing defense, also a conference leader. While the Maroons have balanced their air and ground yards almost equally this season, Carnegie runs more frequently by almost a six-to-one ratio.
“It’s going to be a challenge for our offense to step up and go against something they haven’t seen,” fourth-year wide-receiver Chase Pierson said of Carnegie’s unique rush-oriented style.
If Chicago can find a way to shut down the Tartans’ running game, it will have taken out the keystone of its visitor’s game. Carnegie’s passing offense has been dormant, finding its way to the end zone only two times this season.
With Carnegie averaging a conference-low 20.5 points per game, the Maroons may not have to score big to top the Tartans. However, Carnegie’s losing record looks dangerously deceiving. Dropping three of its four losses by margins of three points or fewer, Carnegie has shown that it can hang tight with the best of them, most noticeably in its 20–17 overtime loss to Case (6–0). The Tartans led 17–10 in the fourth before letting the win slip away.
Much of Saturday’s contest may hinge on whether or not the Maroons can revert back to their careful play on offense. After throwing only five interceptions and allowing only three lost fumbles in their four opening appearances, Chicago threw five picks and lost two fumbles against Wash U (6–1). With these errors leading to 21 points for the Bears, the Maroons could have easily stayed in contention if their turnover deficit had been eliminated.
All stats aside, the fact weighing most heavily on the minds of the Maroons
will be that a loss guarantees that they can’t take a share of this season’s UAA football title, whereas with a victory, the South Siders can still manage to share the spoils with the Bears or the Spartans.
“The way we feel about it is that we have a good shot at tying for conference,” Pierson said, “because we think that Wash U is not that good, we could have beaten them, and so our goal is to give us a chance. And that starts with Carnegie.”
With the ball in their court to grab an important conference win, Chicago couldn’t be more ready, despite weather that has meddled with practice this week.
“Everyone is getting ready to go,” Pierson said, “Everyone is looking sharp. We’re going to be ready to play on Saturday.”