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After finishing the non-conference season in celebration mode with a 38–7 Homecoming blowout of Denison, football returns to the field tomorrow facing the first of the three games that will define their season.
Chicago (4–3) opens the three-game UAA season at Stagg Field against 12th-ranked Case (7–0). The Spartans enter the contest with 28 straight regular-season wins, and the Maroons know how difficult it will be to put an end to that streak.
“They are very, very efficient on both offense and defense,” head coach Dick Maloney said, “This is a team that if you give them a little bit, they will take a lot.”
Case is led by fourth-year QB Dan Whalen, who ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency with a gaudy 200.2 rating. Maloney had high praise for the Spartan gunslinger.
“Their QB Whalen is an extraordinary performer who takes advantage of what you give him and doesn’t make mistakes. I would compare him to a Peyton Manning in what he does,” he said.
If the Maroons are to pull off the upset, in addition to neutralizing Whalen, they will need a huge effort from their own quarterback, third-year Marshall Oium. If he can replicate last week’s performance, Case will have their hands full. Oium set two school records against Denison with 472 passing yards and five touchdowns.
“[Oium’s] done a tremendous job at QB. He has made very good decisions,” Maloney said. “If Marshall’s hot, we have the receivers and runners to be successful.”
Among those receivers are third-year Clay Wolff, who leads the team in receptions with 39, and first-year standout D Brizzolara. Brizzolara leads the nation in all-purpose yardage, with better than 221 yards per game.
The success of Chicago’s passing attack has been critical, as the loss of starting running back Tommy Parks has increased its role in the offense. While second-year Francis Adarkwa has performed well in Parks’ absence, the injury has changed Chicago’s game plan.
“We probably throw the ball five to eight times more per game because Tommy is hurt, because now we don’t have a two-back formation to do things out of,” Maloney said.
But even a great day passing and running won’t be enough. The Maroons must fire on all cylinders in order to have a chance to beat the powerful Spartans.
“What we need to do is play the perfect game,” Maloney said.
Every UAA game is a difficult one, but the following week’s game presents a less daunting challenge than does undefeated Case. The Maroons will travel to St. Louis, where they will attempt to retain the Founder’s Cup by beating Wash U. Chicago earned the cup last year when they beat the Bears 17–14 with a 13-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run by Adarkwa.
Heading into tomorrow’s game against Carnegie, Wash U has a 3–4 record that may belie their true talent. Two of their losses came against nationally ranked teams, 17th-ranked Wittenberg and 18th-ranked Wooster. Regardless of records, it figures to be a closely fought contest.
“It is going to be a heck of a football game. Once you get into UAA play, the stakes are higher. The games are a little bit more intense,” Maloney said.
Chicago will close their season on November 14 back home against Carnegie (4–3), which beat Chicago 28–21 in 2008’s season finale. The Tartans will pose a unique challenge to the Maroons: As opposed to the balanced attacks favored by the rest of the UAA, Carnegie relies heavily upon its running game. The Tartans have thrown only 99 passes on the year, versus 354 rushes.