November 1, 2005

Football aerial attack drops Bison

Somewhere, Amos Alonzo Stagg is smiling. Led by a career day from third-year quarterback Matt Rinklin and a dominating defensive display, Maroons’ football won convincingly for the third straight game.

With near-clinical precision, the Maroons (3–4, 2–0) crushed Bethany (1–8) by a score of 42–3 Saturday afternoon. Chicago never trailed and controlled the game on both sides of the ball, tallying 379 yards of total offense and sacking Bethany third-year quarterback Brent Owens eight times.

After an 0–4 start, the Maroons have outscored opponents 104–9 in their last three contests.

“We play the game faster now, and with more confidence,” head coach Dick Maloney said.

Chicago led the Bison 14–3 at halftime before exploding for 28 unanswered points to finish out the game. Facing a seven-man front designed to shut down Chicago’s running game, the Maroons responded by torching the Bethany secondary for 252 passing yards. Rinklin’s four touchdown passes matched the school’s modern-era record.

The Maroons set the tone right from the outset, scoring on the first possession to take the early lead. Blessed with great field position, Chicago drove 43 yards on six plays, culminating in Rinklin’s 32-yard touchdown pass to third-year wideout Micah Dawson.

“Scoring on the first drive was a big statement,” said Dawson, who was on the receiving end of three of Rinklin’s touchdown strikes. “My ability to score came from Rinklin putting the ball in the right places, as well as the offensive unit giving us the time to take advantage.”

That was all either team could manage in the first quarter, as the Maroons’ defense came up with a pair of big stops. With Bethany driving on their first possession, fourth-year defensive tackle Rob Tamillow sacked Owens for a five-yard loss and forced the punt. Later in the quarter, a fumble by Rinklin gave the Bison the ball at the Chicago 27-yard line. However, a sack by second-year linebacker Tony Insalaco pushed Bethany out of field-goal range and ended the threat.

“I was playing against two rookie tackles, which made it very easy to take advantage of their inexperience,” said Tamillow, who finished the game with nine tackles and three sacks. “We were able to dominate because their offense was both very predictable and frustrated.”

The second quarter brought more of the same, with Rinklin adding another touchdown pass—this time a 14-yard toss to fourth-year wide receiver/cornerback Colin Carrier after a 74-yard drive.

Bethany scored its only points of the game later in the quarter. After the Maroons’ defense sacked Owens on consecutive plays to force a punt, second-year running back Mike Serio fumbled on the return and the Bison recovered. With great field position, the Bethany offense drove to the Chicago eight-yard line before settling for a field goal.

After blowing late leads in each of their first three losses, the second half has recently belonged to the Maroons. Against Bethany it was no different, as the offense exploded for four touchdowns after the break.

First-year running back Chuck Little got things started, scoring on a two-yard touchdown to cap a 47-yard drive. Five minutes later, the Maroons struck again, this time on a 15-yard pass from Rinklin to Dawson to stretch the lead to 28–3 and put the game out of reach.

“While we did not have our best day, as a unit we had the confidence that we would get the job done and systematically accomplished it,” Dawson said.

The Bison only threatened once in the second half. A bad snap on the Chicago punt gave Bethany the ball in Maroon territory. The Bison had a first-and-goal from the five-yard line, but the home team couldn’t find the end zone and ended up missing a field goal.

Rinklin hooked up with Dawson one last time after that, connecting for a 51-yard score with 12:08 left in the game.

Looking to keep the ball on the ground and the clock moving for the Maroons’ penultimate drive, Little carried the ball eight times in nine plays, collecting 56 yards and a 15-yard touchdown to close out the scoring.

Although Bethany is rebuilding, Tamillow saw some significance in the win.

“It is part of proving that what happened in the beginning of the season didn’t define this team,” he said.

Behind Tamillow’s leadership, the defense has improved over the course of the season to become one of the team’s strengths.

“We’ve been playing well on defense,” Maloney said. “Other teams’ inability to block [Tamillow] has opened up other opportunities for other guys, like [second-year linebacker] Gaby Fernandez.”

The offense, which has been red-hot of late, has been anchored by the tandem of Rinklin and Dawson. The duo has combined for six touchdowns on the year, five of which came in the past three games. This season Rinklin has thrown for 1,536 yards with 14 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Dawson has caught 35 passes for 725 yards.

Having already clinched at least a share of the UAA title, the Maroons can win the UAA outright with a win at Stagg Field. After winning their first three games, Case (3–5, 0–2) has dropped their last five, including a 23–20 loss at Carnegie Melon in this past Saturday’s “Academic Bowl.” The Spartans have been plagued by costly turnovers and have been outscored in the second half all but once this season—problems that afflicted Chicago early in the year. The Maroons have not gone undefeated in the league since the 2000 season.

“It’s a perfect Phoenix story,” said Maloney, whose team was picked to finish last in the preseason coaches’ poll. “Our goal was always to win the league.”