November 3, 2011

Title hopes on the line against Carnegie

Coming off a huge loss at Case Western, the Maroons will return home to face UAA rival Carnegie Mellon this weekend. With Chicago’s UAA title hopes on the line, this week is the epitome of a must-win game. While the team still has a slight chance to win the UAA, a loss would end that possibility for good.

“What’s done is done, and our new goal has to be to finish out the season 2–0,” said third-year kicker Jeff Sauer, who received UAA Athlete of the Week honors for his punting against Case.

“The atmosphere obviously was a little down, initially, after the loss, but that soon faded as we began to look ahead to Carnegie,” said fourth-year linebacker Danny Polaneczky. “There is now a little more fire and focus as we are all eager to rise back from that devastating loss and put ourselves back in a position to reach our goal of a UAA championship. Football teaches men to respond to setbacks and adversity with hard work and hustle, and that’s exactly what we are doing.”

To rebound, the Maroons will need to shore up their rush defense and their red zone offense. They have surrendered over 200 yards on the ground in two straight games, a weakness that a team with a premier running game like Carnegie will undoubtedly look to exploit again this week.

“You face a new set of challenges every time you play,” said Head Coach Dick Maloney. “Last week, our problem was that we couldn’t score in the red zone. In past weeks, we’ve been able to score on the big play, but we couldn’t do that against Case, and we couldn’t find another way in to score. This week, we’re going to have to play better run defense because Carnegie is one of the top- ranked rushing teams in the nation.”

In practice, players have been trying to remain motivated following their loss to Case. New plays and formations on offense could help them reach the end zone this week.

“We’ve definitely been working on new things this week, trying to expand our playbook and have a little more fun out there,” said third-year Dee Brizzolara, the team’s leading receiver.

“It’s been tough for a lot of us to stay positive after the loss, but the coaches and captains have been doing a good job of reassuring us there is still a lot to play for,” said second-year quarterback Vincent Cortina. “Every conference game is just as important as the other. The coaches feel the season is not over and the UAA is still up for grabs. We just need to go out there and keep playing hard, but execute better when it matters.”

For fourth-year players, this will likely be their final game at Stagg Field. Players will be honored with their parents at halftime to recognize their careers at Chicago. Several fourth-years have been starters for three years. And in the cases of Polaneczky and fourth-year offensive lineman Nate Williams, four years.

“We are all getting a little nostalgic with our last home game approaching,” Polaneczky said. “We have all accumulated a lot of memories on that field and have become a really close group. It’s sad to comprehend that we only have two more games together.”

As is the case with big games like homecoming and conference play, senior day will bring a rush of emotions. Both teams are coming off a loss and clinging to title hopes. The stakes are high, and this is now the biggest game of the season, but Chicago teams will most definitely come prepared to sing on the field one last time for their fourth-years.

The Maroons welcome UAA rival Carnegie to Stagg Field this Saturday at noon.