October 31, 2011

Postseason slips away with loss to Case Western

The Maroons suffered a crushing 6–0 loss at Case Western over the weekend, thanks to the disappearance of their running game and an inability to score in the red zone. Chicago’s record remains respectable at 5–3, but the team’s conference record is now 0–1, and playoffs look to be a long shot.

The largest disparity between the two teams on Saturday was seen in their ability to run the ball. While Case racked up 201 yards on the ground, the Maroons managed only a meager three net yards on 23 carries. The Maroons’ lack of a running game hindered their ability to move the ball and extend drives, making it all the more painful when they had chances to score and could not do so.

“The biggest problem was scoring in the red zone. We flat out failed to do it,” said third-year receiver Dee Brizzolara, one of the few bright spots on offense with five catches for 103 yards.

Late in the first quarter, the Maroons found themselves with great ball position following an interception by first-year linebacker Schuyler Montefalco, but third-year kicker Jeff Sauer’s field goal attempt was blocked. Sauer also missed from 43 yards late in the third quarter.

Chicago was stopped on a pair of drives in the fourth quarter that ended on downs. With seven minutes left in the game, the Maroons started on the Case 33-yard line and drove to the goal line, but could not score. Then, with four and a half minutes remaining in the game, Chicago mounted another drive that ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down at the opposing 14-yard line. A touchdown on either drive could have propelled the Maroons to victory.

“Case had a good team overall and a good defense,” said third-year quarterback Kevin Shelton, who completed 13 of 28 passes for 154 yards. “I feel like we were every bit as good, if not better, but unfortunately we couldn’t find a way to prove it.”

Neither team enjoyed a prolific offense, and both teams suffered from missed chances on third downs, but the Spartans, unlike the Maroons, were able to convert their red zone opportunities into points. Chicago had a strong defensive effort, led by fourth-year Danny Polaneczky’s team-high 15 tackles, but Case’s two field goals were enough for the win.

The loss leaves the Maroons out of the playoffs and in a tough position in the UAAs. Given that no conference champion has lost a UAA game since 1996, Chicago’s chances to repeat are in serious jeopardy.

“We were all upset over the game, but we have two more left, so we’re moving forward and focusing on Carnegie Mellon,” Brizzolara said.

The Maroons will return home to face Carnegie on RSO Day this Saturday at noon.