On senior day, it was the sophomores who carried the team.
In a contest that came down to the last minute, Chicago (6–3, 1–1 UAA) defeated Carnegie Mellon (3–6, 0–2) by a score of 14–12 on Saturday.
Before the game, the Maroons’ 17 seniors were recognized, but after that, second-year defensive back Vincent Beltrano took over for the South Siders, filling up the stat sheet offensively and defensively.
Chicago received lots of help from the visiting Tartans on that day. In the first quarter, Beltrano forced a fumble that ended a Carnegie drive, but the Maroons couldn’t capitalize.
On a subsequent Tartan drive, second-year defensive back Greg Thome intercepted a Carnegie pass, which set up for a four-play drive that ended with Beltrano entering the game on the offensive, catching a short pass, and running 23 yards for a touchdown—his only offensive score of his college career.
“It felt great to score offensively,” he said. “I haven’t had that feeling since high school. Our coaches put me in a position to be successful, and our offense executed the play to perfection, which really made my job easy.”
Carnegie muffed the following kickoff, and the Maroons recovered. Fourth-year quarterback Vincent Cortina capped off the short drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to second-year tight end Colin Macri. Chicago found itself up 14–0 at the end of the first quarter.
“I thought our offense was outstanding,” Cortina said. “We executed the game plan very well and did what the coaches asked us to do. I thought, in particular, the offensive line had one of their best games as a collective unit.”
Cortina totaled 57 yards passing and two touchdowns on 6–18 throwing in addition to 27 rushing yards.
Neither team scored until the third quarter, when Carnegie converted on a drive for six points. However, the Tartans shot themselves in the foot again by missing the extra point: Chicago still led 14–6.
The Tartans held the ball for much of the fourth quarter. They had a couple drives that approached the end zone, but Beltrano stopped one with an interception on the Maroons’ 26-yard line, his second pick and third forced turnover on the day. Carnegie came back and scored a touchdown with 1:39 to play, although, since they missed the first extra point opportunity, the Tartans were forced to go for two this time and couldn’t convert. Chicago still led 14–12.
In miraculous fashion, Carnegie desperately recovered the ensuing onside kickoff and proceeded to convert two fourth downs on its final drive, one being an outlandish fourth and 37. However, the Chicago defense stopped the Tartans from scoring, as it turned the ball over on downs, and Chicago held on for the victory.
“Our defensive performance was gritty,” Beltrano said. “Coach Wilkerson preaches ‘whatever it takes,’ and we found a way, no matter the situation, to step up to the challenge and find success.”
Carnegie totaled five turnovers on Saturday, and that many mistakes make it difficult to win any day.
Notable fourth-year contributions included Cortina’s passing touchdowns and punting, linebacker Ben Wade’s 15 tackles, and running back Ian Gaines’ 55 rushing yards on 15 carries.
Chicago has to be more aggressive, though, to avoid allowing a 3–6 Carnegie team to come back from a 14-point deficit to make it a close game. The Maroons also have to decrease penalties.
“I think in order to beat a good team like Wash U and [win] a UAA Championship, we will need to be the more disciplined team,” Cortina said.
Chicago’s final regular season game is this Saturday at Wash U at noon. If the Maroons can win on Saturday, both they and Wash U will finish with identical 2–1 UAA records, and 7–3 overall records.