November 11, 2003

Football falls flat

Even on a day when Chicago's football team finally put forth a whole-team effort and made a number of key plays, time still ran out on the Maroons. In a fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands four times, Carnegie Mellon ended up on top, 29-27, after completing a five-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left. The loss was Chicago's seventh straight and leaves the team with a 1-7 record heading into the season's final weekend.

On offense and defense, the game was a big improvement. The Maroons held CMU to 205 rushing yards, 80 yards below its average, and intercepted the ball three times. First-year quarterback Phil Marino and fourth-year wide receiver Jim Raptis connected 11 times, including a few late-game completions that kept Chicago's chances alive.

"Last weekend we played like we should have been playing all year. We just came up short in the end, but not for a lack of effort," said fourth-year cornerback Nate Harrell.

"With our season coming to a close, I think that everyone felt like we needed to prove that our record is not a true measure of the ability and athleticism that we have on this team," said second-year safety Nate Hines.

Marino finished the day with 22 completions in 38 attempts for 326 yards. His biggest play came on a 37-yard do-or-die pass to Raptis that converted a fourth-and-26 from the CMU 46-yard line with two minutes left and the Maroons down 23-20. On the next play, Marino ran nine-yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game to give Chicago a 27-23 lead.

CMU stormed back with a 1:40 drive that ended with a five-yard completion between third-year quarterback Jarrod Highberger and fourth-year running back Ricardo Clarke. The two-point conversion failed, but the 29-27 lead would hold in the final seconds.

Marino showed a lot of improvements in his offensive play, particularly in making quick reads and avoiding the high number of sacks he had his last time at home when he filled in for injured third-year Tony Pulice. His only interception was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter to give CMU a seven-point lead, but otherwise he looked sharp, making big plays with Chicago's experienced and talented receiving corps.

"As a quarterback I feel I am improving every week, most significantly in handling game situations," Marino said. "At this point in my football career, there really isn't much I can change physically and fundamentally, but preparing mentally and calming my nerves down so I can play to my potential is my main aspiration with each coming game."

Getting Raptis and fourth-year receiver Joe Polaneczky more involved in the offense was one of head coach Dick Maloney's main goals , and the game plan used against the Tartans proved to be the most effective so far.

The team will face Case Western Reserve University this Saturday at home to close out the year. For a lot of the Chicago players, the last game of the season is more important than any other game. It is the last chance for the seniors to prove themselves and for the underclassmen to show they can carry the team in the future.

"It's heartbreaking for the seniors' last season to go like it has, especially after knowing all they've accomplished here at Chicago. The underclassmen know how much this last game means to them, and we will not disappoint come November 15," Marino said.