November 17, 2009

In record-setting finale, Chicago clinches winning season

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Football ended a topsy-turvy season—one that included more than its fair share of big plays, record performances, and exciting games—on a positive note, with a Senior Day win.

First-year receiver D Brizzolara’s three touchdown catches and a solid defensive effort helped carry football (5–4, 1–2 UAA) to a 24–7 victory over Carnegie (5–5, 1–2) Saturday, giving the Maroons their first winning season since 2005.

On the day, Brizzolara caught seven passes for 157 yards from third-year quarterback Marshall Oium, including a 28-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter that gave Chicago a 7-0 halftime lead.

“First half was kind of rough,” Oium said after the game. “Missed a lot of wide-open receivers, and just couldn’t get the ball to Brizzolara or [third-year receiver] Clay [Wolff]. Everything started opening up in the third quarter, and that worked out really nicely for us.”

Oium threw a 42-yard touchdown pass only 18 seconds into the second half to Brizzolara, who dodged several Tartan defenders on his way to the end zone. The duo followed that up later in the quarter with a 67-yard passing play, pushing the lead to 21–0.

“We just really hit their corners,” Brizzolara said. “Marshall did a great job getting me the ball. The team had to choose either to leave me open or leave Clay Wolff open, so no matter what there were going to be good plays.”

Carnegie’s only points of the game were scored on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Phil Pantalone to 6-foot-5 receiver Brendan Howe early in the fourth quarter. Chicago ended any chance of a comeback with a 29-yard field goal later in the quarter from first-year Jeff Sauer to increase the lead to 24–7.

Carnegie’s unusual Wing-T offense was held in check all game long by the Maroons’ defense, which recorded 14 tackles for loss, including three each from second-year defensive linemen Matt Sargent and Jake Longtin. The Maroons held the Tartans to only 218 offensive yards and an average of a paltry 2.9 yards per play.

“I was very proud of our players today,” defensive coordinator Kyle Sweeney said. “There was a great sense of motivation and focus on the field. They rose to the challenge of stopping a very unique offense and held them to their second lowest rushing total of the year.”

“The defense had its best game of the entire season,” head coach Dick Maloney said. “D brings speed to the team, which is something that the team—or the league, really—doesn’t really have. Clay plays just as well, helping make the plays. Marshall brings a great field and a great arm. But our defense is what really won us the game today.”

As this is the first winning season for the Maroons since their 5–4 season in 2005, during which they went 3–0 in UAA play, it is also the first winning season that the team’s eight fourth-years have experienced.

“It feels good,” fourth-year receiver Jay McGovern said. “We still haven’t done much in the UAA with only two wins, but it feels good to finally have a winning season...come up on top a little.”

The game was accompanied by a presentation honoring the senior players and their parents prior to kickoff.

“Senior day is really important to us,” Maloney said. “In my past 16 years as a coach, we have never lost a game on that day. It’s really special to us, to the team, and especially the seniors themselves. They have all the coaches’ and players’ respect.”

Both Oium and Brizzolara broke school records through their performances over the season. Oium set the new season passing mark with 2,605 yards, while Brizzolara’s 1,028 receiving yards this year make him the first Maroon to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Brizzolara attributed his success in large part to his quarterback.

“I really wanted that record coming into the game,” Brizzolara said about his achievement. “Marshall did a great job getting me the ball—all the credit in the world to him.”

Overall, it was another exciting football season for the Maroons, who played several close games. They earned last-second wins over Kenyon and Macalester, but fell narrowly against conference rivals Case and Wash U.

“Our team battled through some very tough games this year, winning two with less than a minute to go,” Sweeney said. “I think it speaks to the character and resolve of our players. There is no question how important winning is to them.”