#18 CWRU Football Falls to #12 Thomas More, 36-32, in Home Finale

#18 CWRU Football Falls to #12 Thomas More, 36-32, in Home Finale

In a thrilling contest to decide the Presidents' Athletic Conference Championship that included four second-half lead changes at DiSanto Field on Saturday afternoon, the 18th-ranked Case Western Reserve University Spartans fell 36-32 to 12th-ranked Thomas More College.

The Saints ended their regular season with a 10-0 record, clinching the PAC Title with an 8-0 conference ledger.  The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for CWRU and was the first in PAC play for the Spartans, who dropped to 6-1 in conference games and to 7-2 overall.

CWRU outgained Thomas More 490-310 in the game on offense, and was dominant in time of possession, holding a 36:59-23:01 edge in the category.  Senior Bryan Erb caught nine passes for 138 yards and a touchdown, as the wide receiver tied a school record with his 12th TD of the season.  Sophomore Anthony Canganelli rushed for 97 yards, leading a Spartans' rushing game that picked up 227 yards on the ground.

The Saints struck first in the game, taking possession after a Spartan fumble at their own 36 yard line late in the first quarter.  Quarterback Jensen Gebhardt would complete a 44-yard pass to Tyler Vogelpohl to put Thomas More on the CWRU two yard line, and Hjavier Pitts followed with a touchdown run on the next play to give the Saints a 7-0 advantage.

CWRU had an answer on the next drive, compiling a 13-play, 71-yard drive, highlighted by a third-and-seven conversion on a reverse-play pass from Erb to quarterback Rob Cuda, and capped off by a three-yard scoring run by senior Adam Hochman, with the following extra point knotting the score at 7-7.

The teams would exchange scores on each of their next drives as well.  Thomas More responded to the Spartan strike with a 65-yard drive of its own, scoring after a Luke Zajak fumble over the goal line on a rush from two yards out was recovered by Gebhardt in the end zone.  The Spartans then went 42 yards on their next drive, setting up a Ben Carniol 35-yard field goal, making the score 14-10.  Carniol added a second field goal, this time a 30-yard kick, with 3:29 left in the first half to pull the Spartans within a point, 14-13, which would hold through the end of the half.

Carniol's third field goal of the game came on the team's first drive of the third quarter, a 20-yard field goal that completed a 10-play, 68 yard drive, and gave the Spartans their first lead of the game, 16-14, with 11:03 left to play in the third.

On a third-and-seven on Thomas More's ensuing drive, senior defensive end Nate Nachazel strip-sacked Gebhardt at midfield.  Sophomore cornerback Adrian Cannon recovered the ball and returned it into Thomas More territory, setting up a 46-yard TD pass from Cuda to Erb on the next play, extending the Spartan advantage to 23-14. 

The Saints would attempt a 40-yard field goal on their next drive, but Cannon came up big again, blocking the kick and returning it to the Spartans' 47 yard line.  CWRU would settle for a field goal after driving to the Thomas More two yard line, Carniol's fourth of the contest, pushing the lead to 26-14 with 1:54 to play in the third quarter.

Thomas More responded quickly, cutting the CWRU lead to five on a 19-yard pass from Gebhardt to Vogelpohl with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.  On the next drive for the Spartans, Cuda threw an interception deep in his own territory, and the Saints turned it into points with a five-yard TD catch by Goose Cohorn.  The Saints would unsuccessfully go for two, maintaining a one-point lead, 27-26, with 14:56 left to play.

CWRU had an answer of its own again, scoring with 10:13 remaining after a 12-play, 72 yard drive on a two-yard run by Cuda.  However, Cuda was sacked and fumbled the Spartans' two-point conversion attempt, and Kyle Fuller returned it 90 yards into the end zone, cutting the CWRU lead to a field goal, 32-29.

In a wild exchange on the following drive that would eventually decide the game, junior Nick Kwon intercepted a pass in the end zone to prevent a Thomas More score, returning it out his own four.  However, on the next play, a Canganelli fumble gave the ball back to the Saints, who scored on a Zajac TD run on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line, putting Thomas More back in front, 35-32.

Johnny Lammers was able to pick off Rob Cuda on the next drive, and the Saints ran out the clock on their final drive, clinching the PAC Championship.

Saturday also marked 'Senior Day' for the Spartans, as the team honored its 19 graduating senior players – Ethan Albers, Torin Colchagoff, Dan Cronin, Everett Dishong, Erb, Jordan Esteban, Tyler Hamilton, Hochman, Nachazel, Mike O'Donnell, KJ Pederson, Josh Rogers, Gavin Sandidge, Tyler Schovanec, Dayton Snyder, Scott Suren, Tap Tasker, Aaron Weisberg, and Justin Williams – who were playing in their final regular season game at DiSanto Field.

Case Western Reserve will wrap-up its regular season next weekend with the 30th-Annual Academic Bowl against Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The game is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, November 14th.