#22 Spartans Fall to CMU 52-42 in 30th-Annual Academic Bowl

#22 Spartans Fall to CMU 52-42 in 30th-Annual Academic Bowl

The 22nd-ranked Case Western Reserve University football team dropped its season-finale on Saturday afternoon, falling 52-42 to Carnegie Mellon University at the 30th-Annual Academic Bowl in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

With the loss, the Spartans finished the 2015 season with a 7-3 overall record, a four-game improvement over their record last season.  CWRU ended the campaign with a 6-2 PAC mark, and a 1-2 record in UAA games.

Carnegie Mellon raised its record to 7-3 with a 6-2 PAC record, and clinched a share of the UAA Championships with a 2-1 ledger in league games.

Saturday's game was the highest-scoring contest in the 30-year history of the Academic Bowl between the Spartans and the Tartans, with the 94 points scored surpassing the 77 points scored during the 2002 matchup.

Sophomore quarterback Rob Cuda threw for 332 yards a pair of touchdowns in the game, while running for another 61 yards and two more TDs.  One of his TD passes was caught by senior receiver Bryan Erb, his school-record setting 13th touchdown of the season.

Erb finished the game with eight receptions for 117 yards, his second-straight 100-yard receiving effort and fifth overall this season.

The Tartans struck on their first drive of the game, with Sam Benger setting up a score with a 58-yard run, allowing Andrew Hearon to throw an 11-yard TD pass to John Prather five plays later.  The Spartans would be forced to punt on their first drive of the game, but the ball was muffed by the CMU returner and recovered by Cody Calhoun at the Tartans' 10-yard line.  On the next play, Cuda rushed into the end zone, with the extra point tying the game at 7-7 with 10:17 left in the first quarter.

Carnegie Mellon regained the lead on a 43 yard TD catch by Graham Schilling with 3:19 to play in the first quarter, taking a 14-7 advantage.  After going three-and-out on the next play, the Spartans forced another turnover, this time an interception by Aaron Weisberg that the senior linebacker returned 29 yards for his first career touchdown, tying the score at 14-14.

The Tartans would then go on to score a pair of unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter, one on a 13-yard pass to Schilling, and the other on a 15-yard run by Hearon, taking a 28-14 lead.  The Spartans would narrow the gap on a seven-play, 67-drive that ended on a two-yard scoring run by Cuda, cutting the lead to 28-20 after a blocked extra point, heading into halftime.

Early in the second half, CMU turned an interception into points, with Schilling catching his third TD of the game from 37 yards out to extend the lead to 35-20.  However, CWRU had an answer to stay close, driving 65 yards and scoring on a 25-yard TD pass from Cuda to junior receiver Zech Medved to pull within eight, 35-27, with 9:41 to play in the third quarter.

Schilling would catch his fourth touchdown of the game with 5:32 left in the fourth to push the lead back to 15, but senior Adam Hochman capped off a 52-yard drive, highlighted by a 37-yard catch by Erb with a one-yard TD run, his fourth score of the season, cutting the Carnegie Mellon lead back to 42-34.  Benger, however, gave the Tartans' a 15-point lead again with a five-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.

Erb's record-setting TD catch came from 10-yards out with 6:29 left in the game, to complete a 13-play, 65-yard drive that took just over three minutes.  Hochman cut the lead down to seven with a successful two-point conversion run, but the Tartans were able to run off almost five minutes on their next drive, ending with a 36-yard field goal to seal the victory.

The Spartans final drive of the game stalled on the Tartans' one-yard line, but would have proven to be too little too late, with just seven second remaining on the clock at its conclusion.

Cuda finished his stellar sophomore year with 2,631 yards and 28 TDs with only five interceptions.  He added another 715 yards on the ground and eight more TDs.

CMU's Benger finished the game with 237 rushing yards, while Schilling caught nine passes for 207 yards, including the four touchdowns.  Hearon totaled 298 yards and five touchdowns through the air on Saturday, with another 85 rushing yards and a TD on the ground.

CWRU's 2015 season came to a conclusion with the loss.