2017 Case Western Reserve University Football
NCAA Division III Playoffs – First Round
#16 CWRU (10-0, 8-0 PAC, 2-0 UAA) at #11 Illinois Wesleyan University (9-1, 7-1 CCIW)
Saturday, November 18, 2017 · 1:00 p.m. ET · Bloomington, Ill. (Tucci Stadium)
Live Stats: http://www.ncaa.com/game/football/d3/2017/11/18/case-ill-wesleyan
Click here for the complete game notes in .pdf format
16th-ranked Case Western Reserve University (10-0, 8-0 PAC, 2-0 UAA) will be making its fourth NCAA Division III Playoff appearance, when the team travels to Tucci Stadium in Bloomington, Illinois to face the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans in the first round on Saturday, November 18th at 1:00 p.m. ET.
PAC & UAA CHAMPIONS
Case Western Reserve University went 8-0 in the Presidents' Athletic Conference and won its first league title since joining the conference as a football affiliate member prior to the start of the 2014 season. The Spartans split the PAC Championship with 15th-ranked Washington & Jefferson, which also claimed the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs based on the strength of conference victories tiebreaker (the Spartans earned one of the at-large bids to the playoffs). Case Western Reserve also claimed its second-straight UAA Championship and seventh overall in program history, going 2-0 in league play.
SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
Case Western Reserve completed the regular season with a 10-0 overall mark, including a 5-0 road record. The Spartans have averaged 43.5 points per game (first in the PAC, 11th in DIII) on 462.9 yards of offense (third in the PAC, 29th in DIII), including 268.8 passing yards (second in the PAC, 44th in DIII) and 194.1 rushing yards per game (64th in DIII). The defense is second in the PAC with just 16.9 points allowed (43rd in DIII), while leading the conference with 283.4 total yards allowed (28th in DIII), and 112.7 rushing yards (54th in DIII) per game, and is third with 170.7 passing yards allowed per contest (41st in DIII). The Spartans average 32:33 time of possession per game, and have a +10 turnover margin.
Senior quarterback Rob Cuda has completed 59.6% of his passes and thrown for 28 touchdowns with just five interceptions, and leads the PAC with 2,510 passing yards. He has also run for 392 yards and six touchdowns this season. 17 different Spartans have caught at least one pass this year, led by junior wide receiver Justin Phan (48 catches, 591 yards, 7 TDs) and senior wide receiver Zak Hurd (25 catches, 606 yards, 4 TDs), who is ninth in Division III with 24.24 yards per catch. Other leading targets for Cuda include senior running back Aaron Aguilar (16 catches, 210 yards, 5 TDs), and senior tight end Zech Medved (18 catches, 324 yards, 2 TDs). The CWRU ground game has been anchored by senior Jacob Burke, who has carried the ball 210 times for 1,073 yards and 17 touchdowns (first in the PAC and 10th in Division III).
Senior linebacker Justin McMahon leads the team with 72 tackles (29 solo), including eight for a loss and three fumble recoveries, and senior linebacker Andrew Banathy has added 64 tackles (35 solo) with a team-leading 11.0 for a loss and four sacks. Junior defensive end Cameron Brown has 10 tackles for a loss, including a team-best 4.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries, while junior defensive tackle Ian Henderson has forced three fumbles, and senior defensive end Dan Techman has chipped in 49 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Sophomore safety Patrick Crossey has a team-best four pass breakups and four interceptions, while freshman defensive back Nick Kadlecik and senior cornerback Adrian Cannon have each added two interceptions apiece.
Senior placekicker Ben Carniol has made eight-of-11 field goal tries and 55-of-57 extra point attempts. Freshman punter Quinn Saluan has punted 31 times for an average of 37.2 yards, including 12 inside the 20 yard line. Phan has returned 17 punts for an average of 10.6 yards, and senior safety Cody Calhoun has 23 kick returns for an average of 22.7 yards.
SCOUTING THE TITANS
Illinois Wesleyan stands at 9-1 overall, including a 7-1 record in the CCIW, where they finished as conference co-champions along with North Central. The Titans' one loss during the year came on the road at then fifth-ranked North Central, 26-13 on September 16 (giving the Cardinals the automatic bid to the NCAAs), but the team also has victories over then third-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater (17-10 on September 2nd) and then fourth-ranked Wheaton College (14-10 on September 30th). The team's strength is its defense, which ranks 11th in Division III in points allowed (10.8), 23rd in total yards allowed (274.0), and fourth in rushing yards allowed (49.9), while yielding 224.1 passing yards per game. Offensively, Illinois Wesleyan averages 25.3 points per game on 344.3 total yards, including 136.8 rushing yards and 207.5 passing yards. The Titans average a time of possession of 30:47 per game and a +2 turnover margin.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Bauer has completed 60.1% of his passes for 1,993 yards and 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions, while rushing for 149 yards and another four scores. His leading targets include sophomore receivers Jack Healy (40 receptions, 524 yards, 8 TDs), Zach Walsh (33 receptions, 481 yards, 5 TDs) and Liam Keffer (28 receptions, 339 yards, 2 TDs). Junior tailback Morgan Alexander has carried the ball 217 times for 964 yards and six touchdowns.
The team's leading tackler is senior linebacker Jordan Hassan with 92 (70 solo), including 5.5 sacks and 11.0 total for a loss, in addition to a pair of interceptions. Junior defensive end Eric Dubose has a team-leading 10 sacks, and senior defensive tackle Justin Krzeczkowski has paced the squad with 12.0 tackles for a loss. Junior free safety Trevor Staley leads the team with three interceptions, and sophomore cornerback Trevor Koepke has a team-high 10 pass breakups.
Sophomore kicker Patrick Tata has made three-of-five field goal tries and 10-of-12 extra point attempts during the year, and sophomore Noah Baird has punted 50 times for 34.1 yards, including 10 inside the 20-yard line. Nick Harcar has returned six kicks for an average of 24.3 yards, and junior Mitch Pfeiffer has 13 punt returns for an average of 7.2 yards.
CWRU Head Coach Greg Debeljak, named the 2017 PAC Coach of the Year earlier this week, will enter Saturday's game with an overall record of 101-42 (.706) during his 14-year career with the Spartans. The 1988 graduate of John Carroll University has led Case Western Reserve to six UAA Championships in the last 11 years, notching four undefeated regular seasons and four NCAA playoff appearances (2007-09, 2017). Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Case Western Reserve has posted an overall record of 88-25, (good for a .779 winning percentage), earning Debeljak and his assistants the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year award five times (2007-09, 2011, and 2016). He claimed the 100th win over his career earlier this season, with a 41-10 victory over Westminster on November 4.
Illinois Wesleyan is led by Norm Eash, a 1975 graduate of the University. He is now in his 31st season as the program's Head Coach, and has compiled a record of 200-103-1 for his career (good for a .660 winning percentage). Eash claimed the 200th win of his career in the team's final game of the regular season against Millikin.
Saturday's game will be the first-ever contest between Case Western Reserve and Illinois Wesleyan. It will be the first time this season the Spartans have played an opponent they have never faced prior.
LAST TIME OUT
The Spartans are coming off a thrilling 41-34 overtime win over Carnegie Mellon last Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Trailing by four points with 28 seconds to play, senior linebacker Zach Lyon blocked a punt back to the Tartans' three yard line that was scooped up by Justin Phan and returned for a go-ahead touchdown, a play that was later selected as D3football.com's Play of the Week. After the Tartans tied the game on a last-second field goal, Rob Cuda connected Phan for a five-yard touchdown in overtime, the eventual game-winning score. Jacob Burke finished the game with 164 rushing yards and a score, while Cuda added 116 yards and a TD on the ground and threw for two additional touchdowns in the game, both to Phan. Justin McMahon registered 16 tackles and an interception for the defense, with Andrew Banathy securing a pick of his own, along with 12 tackles.
Illinois Wesleyan is coming off a 31-6 win at home over Millikin last Saturday, as Brandon Bauer completed 22-of-30 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns, including six for 112 yards and two TDs to Zach Walsh.
17 NAMED TO ALL-PAC TEAMS
Seventeen members of the Case Western Reserve football team received All-PAC honors for the 2017 season. Rob Cuda was named the Conference's Most Valuable Offensive Player, and was joined on the all-conference first team by senior center Gage Blair, Jacob Burke, Cameron Brown and Justin McMahon. Earning second team honors were senior guard Ryan DeMarinis, Justin Phan, Ian Henderson, Andrew Banathy, Cody Calhoun and Ben Carniol. Honorable mentions to the All-PAC squads included Aaron Aguilar, Zak Hurd, Dan Techman, Zach Lyon, Patrick Crossey and Adrian Cannon.
CONFERENCE WEEKLY HONORS
The Spartans swept last week's UAA Player of the Week awards, with Justin Phan claiming offensive honors, Andrew Banathy securing the defensive award, and Zach Lyon earning the honor for his play on special teams. Lyon was also named the PAC's Special Teams Player of the Week, while Justin McMahon was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.
IN THE POLLS
The Spartans ended the regular season as the 16th-ranked team in Division III, according to both the D3football.com and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) polls. CWRU highest ranking of the year came after the team's week-10 win over Westminster, when the squad checked in at 14th in the D3football.com top-25.
UNDEFEATED REGULAR SEASON
With last Saturday's win, Case Western Reserve secured the fifth undefeated regular season in the program's history, along with 1984, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The Spartans are one of 12 undefeated teams left in Division III football, and one of two in the PAC this season, along with Washington and Jefferson.
The Spartans have won all five of their road games in 2017, and have won ten-straight road contests dating back to last year. CWRU has outscored its opponents 427-178 in the 10 games during the streak (42.7 to 17.8 per game), including a 218-97 margin this season.
CWRU has held its opponent scoreless through an entire half six times through 10 games this season. The Spartans' defense shutout Saint Vincent in the first half of their matchup, and held Chicago, Grove City, Bethany, Geneva and Westminster without a point in the second half of their games. CWRU has also allowed one or fewer touchdowns in a game four times in 2017.
The Spartans have scored at least 33 points in all 10 games this season. CWRU has registered 40 or more points in five straight games, and seven times overall in 2017. The Spartans' 435 total points this season are the second-most in a single campaign in program history, behind only the 479 scored by the 2009 squad.
Case Western Reserve is 1-3 all-time in postseason games. The Spartans will be looking for their first playoff win since a 21-20 victory over Widener on November 17, 2007. CWRU will be playing its first-ever road playoff game on Saturday. Illinois Wesleyan has qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and the sixth time overall, and has a 3-5 postseason record all-time.
Rob Cuda's 2,510 passing yards this season are the fourth-most in a year in program history, and just 121 behind his career high of 2,631 yards, set during the 2015 campaign… His 28 passing touchdowns match a career high and rank as the third most in CWRU history… Jacob Burke's 17 rushing touchdowns ranks as the second-most in program history, and are two behind Brandon McDowell's record of 19 (2001)… Burke's 1,072 rushing yards are the fourth-most in a season in CWRU history, and he became just the second CWRU running back ever with two 1,000-yard seasons last week, and the first to reach the milestone in back-to-back years… Zak Hurd's 24.24 yards per reception is on pace for a program record… Justin Phan's 10.6 yards per punt return this year rank ninth in school history… Ben Carniol's 79 points are the fourth-most by a kicker in program history, and his 55 made extra points are two short of the CWRU single-season record, set by Sam Coffey in 2009.
Rob Cuda is second in school history with 7,563 passing yards and 76 touchdowns over his career… Jacob Burke is sixth in program history with 2,229 rushing yards, while Cuda ranks eighth with 2,014 yards… Burke's 34 rushing touchdowns are the second-most ever by a Spartan, and five behind Brandon McDowell's record of 39… Cody Calhoun is third in program history in career kick return average (24.1)… Ben Carniol is second all-time among kickers with 213 career points… Zech Medved is 58 receiving yards shy of 1,000 for his career.