Spartans Fall to No. 3/2 Linfield on Homecoming

The Spartans totaled three sacks on Saturday. (photo by Lynne Browske)
The Spartans totaled three sacks on Saturday. (photo by Lynne Browske)

CLEVELAND – The Case Western Reserve University football team fell to No. 3/2 nationally ranked Linfield College (Ore.) by a score of 45-0 on Homecoming Saturday at Case Field.

The Spartans drop to 1-3 for the first time since 2001 and first time in the Greg Debeljak era. The Wildcats, ranked third by the American Football Coaches Association and second by D3Football.com, improve to 3-0. The shutout was the first suffered for Case Western Reserve since a 14-0 loss versus Alfred College (N.Y.) in 2005.

Linfield entered the game as the nation's top-ranked offense at 61.5 points and 658 total yards per game. The Spartans held the Wildcats to 428 yards and forced two turnovers.

Both defenses started strong with back-to-back three-and-outs for the Spartan offense sandwiching one for Linfield. The Wildcats then took their second possession 48 yards on eight plays and scored a one-yard touchdown on a rush by quarterback Josh Yoder. The extra point by Josh Repp made the score 7-0 at the 5:29 mark of the first quarter.

Another two possessions passed before Linfield struck again with a quick, three-play, 31-yard march that culminated in an eight-yard TD pass from Yoder to wide out Charlie Poppen. Repp's second PAT took the count to 14-0 with 42 seconds left in the opening quarter. Linfield's offense was set up by a short punt and 22-yard return by cornerback Chad Coburn.  

The next visitor drive, which came in the second quarter, reached the Spartan 27, but the defense held and forced a 41-yard field goal try that missed wide right with 10:21 left in the first half.

The score remained at 14-0 for the next nine and a half minutes until Linfield found the endzone again on a 10-yard pass from Yoder to running back Josh Hill. Another point after by Repp made the score 21-0 with 1:56 left before half.

Linfield was able to grab possession in Case territory once more before intermission, and Repp hit a 43-yard field goal as time expired to cap a four-play, 19-yard drive to make the score 24-0.  

The second half started out promising for the hosts as the opening Linfield drive ended quickly in an interception by senior safety Austin Webb (Alliance, Ohio/Marlington) that was returned 45 yards to the visitor 10 at 14:03. However, a fumble ensued on the first play of the Spartans' drive and Linfield grabbed possession back deep in its own territory.

The entire third quarter eventually went scoreless before Linfield increased its advantage to 31-0 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Wildcats pieced together an 80-yard drive on 13 plays with Hill running into the endzone from five yards out. Repp's fourth PAT made the score 31-0 with 14:55 left to play.

The Wildcats added a TD pass with 8:05 left on the clock from Matt Yarbrough to Evan Peterson. The final points of the game came on a 71-yard interception return by Ian Zarosinski in the final minutes.  

For the game, the Spartans were held to 89 total yards of offense. Junior wide receiver Sean Lapcevic (Presto, Pa./Chartiers Valley) made three receptions for 33 yards and returned a kick 45 yards in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, sophomore linebacker Aaron Weisberg (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) totaled a game-high 12 tackles, while fellow sophomore LB Gavin Sandidge (Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic) finished with 11 stops, including four for loss. In addition to Webb, freshman corner Nick Kwon (Kaneohe, Hawaii/Mid-Pacific Institute) also grabbed his first career interception.

Linfield was led by Yoder, who completed 21-of-32 passes for 235 yards and two TDs. Wide out Brian Balsiger finished with game highs of eight catches and 99 yards.  

The Spartans now have back-to-back bye weeks before following Linfield back to the upper Northwest for a Saturday, October 19 game at the University Puget Sound. Kickoff in Tacoma, Washington is set for 1:00 p.m. (PT).