The banners hanging in Ratner may have some company come Saturday.
After demolishing Carnegie 61–22 in a record-breaking victory on Saturday, the Maroons (7–2 overall and 2–0 in conference) will play Wash U for both the UAA championship and the Founder’s Cup at Stagg Field this Saturday. In what is surely the biggest game in recent memory for Chicago football, the Maroons will face Wash U, a longtime rival and winners of six straight.
Wash U has also won both of its conference games to stand 7–2 overall—same as Chicago—behind a solid defense and strong special teams play.
During their winning streak, the Bears have scored an average of 21.5 points per game. In contrast, the Maroons have averaged just over 33 points a game over that time. Instead, the Bears have relied upon a defense that has surrendered only three touchdowns in their last three games. Opponents have scored a minuscule 12 points a game over the course of Wash U’s winning streak. The Bears will likely lean heavily on the play of senior defensive back Brandon Brown to help shut down the Maroons’ passing game. Brown recently received D-III team of the week honors after last week’s win over Case.
“On offense we need to get up on them early and force them to pass the ball,” said second-year wide receiver Dee Brizzolara, whose five touchdowns last week helped the Maroons score a record 61 points. His performance also got him a spot on the team of the week. “We’ve put in a few new plays, and from a general team perspective we seem to be more energetic and excited to practice. We all really want this win, and it shows in our attitudes this week.”
If God built an offense designed to stress a dominant defense, it might very well be the Maroons.
Last week, against conference opponent Carnegie, Chicago’s offense moved the ball at will.
Fourth-year quarterback Marshall Oium dominated the Tartans’ secondary, passing for 410 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns landed in the hands of fourth-year wide receiver Clay Wolff, who set Chicago records for career touchdowns (35) and total points scored (212) with his performance Saturday.
If the Maroons can recapture some of their scoring prowess on Saturday, they should find themselves in a strong position to win.
“Playing for the conference championship and the Founders Cup means a lot to our team. We have focused on beating Wash U since they came from behind and beat us last year. Nothing sucks more than losing to Wash U, and no one on this team wants to feel that again,” said Oium. “To win on Saturday we are just going to need to capitalize on all of our opportunities to score. We cannot afford to let those opportunities slip away.”
In the penultimate game of last year’s season, the 4–3 Maroons welcomed the Bears with the conference title still undecided. In a high scoring game, Wash U won 44–37.
“Defensively, we need to control their running game and limit the big plays,” Oium added. “Those are what killed us last year against Wash, and if we are able to play solid defense, we should be able to come away with a win on Saturday.”
“We have prepared for Wash U like any other week. We all know it is a big game, but we still have to play smart assignment football,” said third-year defensive lineman Jake Longtin, who rounds out the roster for the game after collecting three sacks against Carnegie. “The coaches have done a good job of treating it like a regular game, even though we all know what is at stake.”
But while the ins and outs of this week’s practice may remain largely the same, the feeling surrounding this team has been anything but. Not one member on the team played for the University when Chicago last won its conference.
Speaking of Saturday’s import, Oium stated, “This is the last game of our season, and it is one of the biggest games in UChicago football history. If we lose this game, our season will be looked on as a failure because we failed to live up to the expectations set by our players and coaches. Naturally, there are going to be nerves; every time I take the field I get nervous. It’s just part of the game.”
The Maroons will host Wash U at noon on Saturday for the Founder’s Cup, conference championship, and a possible berth in the NCAA tournament.