After losing a close game in the fourth quarter to Case, Chicago looked to rebound over the weekend with a win over the Wash U.
However, after another close shootout, victory, not to mention the Founder’s Cup, again slipped out of the Maroons’ (4–4, 0–2 UAA) hands when Wash U(4–5, 1–1) put up 20 fourth-quarter points to pull out a 44–37 victory.
“We’ve tried to highlight the big plays against our defense; they’ve really hurt us,” head coach Dick Maloney said. “You can’t just let teams score in one play; it’s not a healthy thing.”
After the Maroons ran out to a 27-17 halftime lead, both teams’ defenses clamped down and silenced the offenses that had been so explosive in the first half. Following a fourth and three stop of the Bears at the Chicago 29, the Maroons moved down the field until Wash U intercepted a pass from third-year quarterback Marshall Oium at their own 32. The next possessions for both teams ended in punts, and through the first 11 minutes of the third quarter neither team had managed to score.
Then, on the first play of the next Bears drive, running back Jim O’Brien broke through the Maroons’ defense for an 87-yard touchdown run, which made the game 27–24.
The Maroons immediately retaliated on their next possession with a 45-yard pass from Oium to first-year D Brizzolara, who had 218 all-purpose yards on the day to establish a new record for the modern era of Chicago football. Brizzolara has 1,737 yards on the year, with one game left to play.
Two plays later the Maroons had a first and goal on the Bears’ six, but a holding penalty and three Oium incompletions forced the Maroons to settle for a field goal and a 30-24 lead.
“Things happen a lot quicker [in the red zone], you lose your speed advantage…the field gets a lot smaller,” Maloney said.
Trying to maintain their slim fourth-quarter lead, the Maroons again halted the Bears, but the Bears’ punter managed to pin Chicago down to their own one-yard line. When the succeeding Maroons drive stalled inside Wash U territory, the Bears got the ball back and O’Brien once again punctured the Maroons’ defense and scored on a 51-yard touchdown run.
Now trailing 31-30, the Maroons again orchestrated a long drive into the red zone and earned a first and 10 on the Bears’ 14. But a bad snap out of the shotgun resulted in a Maroons fumble and a 15-yard loss. After another loss of yards on third down, the Maroons punted.
After a 59-yard touchdown run by Wash U’s Greg Lachaud and a failed fourth and one attempt by the Maroons that resulted in another touchdown for the Bears with less than two minutes to play, the Maroons’ fate was sealed.
The Maroons’ second-half struggles stood in contrast to their strong first-half performance. The scoring started early in the opening period. Wash U scored a touchdown on their first possession after only six minutes had elapsed on the game clock. Chicago responded quickly with a two play, 79-yard drive to tie it up 30 seconds later. They followed that up with another touchdown less than five minutes later on their next possession, making the game 13–7 after a blocked PAT.
Late in the second quarter, Chicago went ahead 27–17 thanks to a seven-yard strike from Oium to third-year receiver Clay Wolff. Chicago moved surgically down the field with completions of 20 and 11 yards by Oium that put the Maroons inside the Bears’ 20. On second and goal from the Bears’ nine, Oium’s pass to Wolff was tipped and picked off in the endzone by Wash U linebacker Bryce Buchanan—a seven-point swing that seemed even more costly in hindsight.
In truth, the Maroons are only a few big plays away from being 6-2 and undefeated in conference play. If they can resolve their red zone issues and manage to stop the big play, they should be able to defeat Carnegie (5–4, 1–1) on Saturday. If they do, Chicago will finish with a winning record for the first time since 2005.