2015 CWRU Football Season Recap

2015 CWRU Football Season Recap

Behind one of the top offenses in the program's history, and a veteran, run-stopping defense, the Case Western Reserve University football team experienced a resurgence during the 2015 season, finishing the year with a 7-3 record, and coming just a game away from a berth to the field for the NCAA Division III Championships.

The Spartans were ranked as high as 18th in the D3football.com National Poll during the year, and finished the campaign tied for third in the Presidents' Athletic Conference with a 6-2 conference ledger.  The season marked a four-game improvement on the team's overall record from the 2014 season, and a three-game bump in its PAC record from the previous year, as CWRU finished with its highest win total since winning nine games in 2011.  Case Western Reserve made its initial appearance in the D3football.com rankings on October 26th, marking the team's first time the program had been ranked in the organization's poll since the 2009 season.

After an opening-week loss at the University of Chicago, the Spartans responded by reeling off seven-straight wins, putting at least 30 points on the board in six of the seven victories.  Case Western Reserve started the streak with a 49-14 win over St. Vincent College in its home opener, and followed with wins of 41-6 at Thiel College and 59-20 at Bethany College.  The Spartans returned to DiSanto Field on October 10th with a 45-14 victory over Waynesburg University on Homecoming Saturday, matching a program-record by scoring at least 40 points for the fourth-straight game.

The Spartans continued their winning streak the following week with a 20-7 win at Geneva College, setting up a key meeting at home against Washington and Jefferson College, ranked 15th in Division III at the time of the game.  Case Western Reserve stepped up to the occasion, defeating the Presidents 35-28, behind a five-touchdown performance from sophomore quarterback Rob Cuda, including a game-winning 39-yard scoring pass to senior receiver Bryan Erb that definitively broke a tie with 5:03 to play in the game.

A home Halloween victory, 34-16, over University Athletic Association rival Washington University (Mo.) gave the Spartans a seven-game winning streak (their longest since a 10-game stretch between the 2011 and 2012 seasons), and led into a de facto PAC Championship game between Case Western Reserve and then 12th-ranked Thomas More College at DiSanto Field on November 7th, with the winning team earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.  The Spartans took a 12-point lead, 26-14, on a field goal by Ben Carniol (his fourth successful kick of the game) with 1:54 left in the third quarter, but two quick touchdowns put Thomas More on top by a point, 27-26, early in the fourth.  The Spartans regained the lead with 10:13 left in the game on Cuda touchdown run, but a fumble on the two-point attempt was returned for a score, keeping the Saints within a field goal, 32-29.  Thomas More would notch the game-winning and conference-championship clinching score with on a rushing touchdown with 5:17 remaining in the game, en route to the 36-32 win.  The Spartans would also drop their season finale, losing 52-42 at Carnegie Mellon University on November 14th.

After the season, 20 CWRU players were named to the All-PAC Team, including First Team selections in senior tight end Ethan Albers, sophomore center Gage Blair, Cuda and senior linebacker Gavin Sandidge.  It was a significant rise in the Spartans' all-conference honorees from 2014, when just five players earned spots on the all-conference team (first, second or honorable mention) during their first season as a football affiliate member of the PAC.  23 players were selected to the All-UAA Team, include 12 First Team honorees.

Behind the emergence of Cuda at quarterback, who was named to the D3football.com All-South Region Third Team, the Spartans' offense ranked among the best in Division III last season.  The Spartans were 29th in scoring offense (38.7 points per game), 34th in passing offense (278.1 yards per game) and 32nd in total offense (468.4 yards per game).  CWRU's 387 points scored during the year were the most put up by the team in a year since 2009, and the fourth-most in a season in the program's history.  In addition, the Spartans ranked 27th among DIII teams in time of possession (32:55), aided by just 15 turnovers during the year, 53rd among DIII teams.

Cuda finished the year with 28 passing touchdowns and just five interceptions, throwing for 2,631 yards.  He was also the team's leading rusher with a net of 709 yards and eight touchdowns.  The sophomore was ninth in Division III in total offense, 11th in points responsible for per game, 16th in passing touchdowns and 30th in passing yards per game.  Erb set a program-record with 13 touchdown receptions during the season (20th among Division III players in 2015), catching 65 total passes for 856 yards.  Cuda and Erb hooked up for at least one touchdown in nine of the team's 10 games, including each of the last seven contests of the year.  Albers, an All-South Region Second Team selection, caught 29 passes for 576 yards and five touchdowns during the year, averaging 19.9 yards per catch, the 28th-best mark in Division III.

Meanwhile the defense was among the best in halting its opponents' rushing attack during the year, finishing the season ranked 15th among all NCAA Division III teams with 100.2 rushing yards allowed per game.  In addition, the Spartans' defense was 23rd in Division III with three sacks per game, 25th with 17 interceptions and 24th in red zone defense.

Individually, the Case Western Reserve defense was led by a large group of veteran players, including Sandidge, who led all players with 60 tackles during the year.  Junior cornerback Nick Kwon paced the squad with four interceptions, 42 solo tackles, and 14 pass breakups.  Senior captain Aaron Weisberg and sophomore cornerback Adrian Cannon each had three interceptions during the year, with Cannon registering all three during the team's win over Washington (Mo.), to match the program's single-game record.  Senior defensive lineman Nate Nachazel led the team with three forced fumbles, seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, with senior lineman Dayton Snyder adding 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss, and senior lineman Justin Williams notching five sacks and six tackles for a loss.

On special teams, Carniol ranked among the most accurate kickers in Division III during the year, converting nine-of-11 field goals for a 0.818 percentage, sixth among all players in the country, while also successfully kicking 43-of-46 extra point attempts.  Sophomore Jacob Burke averaged 40.4 yards per punt, with four inside the opponent's 20-yard line and seven of 50-or-more yards, including a career-long 71-yard punt against Washington and Jefferson.  Sophomore Cody Calhoun was 24th among DIII players with 26.3 yards per kick return.

In addition to the team's success on the field, a number of Spartans were recognized for their academic success as well.  Both Snyder and senior safety/ linebacker Scott Suren were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team, becoming the 25th and 26th players in program history to earn Academic All-America status, and the 15th and 16th to receive a First Team berth.  Another 25 Spartans were named to the PAC Honor Roll, and 24 received UAA All-Academic Honors.

The Spartans earned the following honors during the 2015 season:

D3football.com All-South Region Team

Ethan Albers

Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty

TE

Second Team

Rob Cuda

Bartlett, Ill./South Elgin

QB

Third Team

 

All-Presidents' Athletic Conference

Ethan Albers

Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty

TE/HB

First Team

Gage Blair

Elyria, Ohio/Sr. Edward

OL

First Team

Rob Cuda

Bartlett, Ill./South Elgin

QB

First Team

Gavin Sandidge

Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic

LB

First Team

Cody Calhoun

Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Watterson

RET

Second Team

DB

Honorable Mention

Ben Carniol

Vienna, Va./Thomas Jefferson Sci. & Tech.

K

Second Team

Bryan Erb

Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Country Day

WR

Second Team

Nick Kwon

Kaneohe, Hawaii/Mid-Pacific Institute

DB

Second Team

Dayton Snyder

West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette

DL

Second Team

Jacob Burke

Johnstown, Ohio/Northridge

P

Honorable Mention

Dante Capicchioni

Birmingham, Mich./Seaholm

OL

Honorable Mention

Ryan DeMarinis

Clarendon Hills, Ill./Westwood (Mass.)

OL

Honorable Mention

Jordan Esteban

Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit Prep

DB

Honorable Mention

Tyler Hamilton

Wyandotte, Mich./Theodore Roosevelt

OL

Honorable Mention

Adam Hochman

Austin, Texas/Anderson

TE/HB

Honorable Mention

Nate Nachazel

Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny

DL

Honorable Mention

KJ Pederson

Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield

LB

Honorable Mention

Scott Suren

Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick

LB

Honorable Mention

Aaron Weisberg

Plantation, Fla./American Heritage

LB

Honorable Mention

Justin Williams

Manor, Pa./Penn-Trafford

DL

Honorable Mention

 

All-University Athletic Association

Ethan Albers

Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty

TE

First Team

Cody Calhoun

Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Watterson

S/KR

First Team

Rob Cuda

Bartlett, Ill./South Elgin

QB

First Team

Ryan DeMarinis

Clarendon Hills, Ill./Westwood (Mass.)

OL

First Team

Bryan Erb

Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Country Day

WR

First Team

Adam Hochman

Austin, Texas/Anderson

FB

First Team

Nick Kwon

Kaneohe, Hawaii/Mid-Pacific Institute

CB

First Team

Gavin Sandidge

Pittsburgh, Pa./Central Catholic

ILB

First Team

Dayton Snyder

West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette

DL

First Team

Scott Suren

Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick

OLB

First Team

Justin Phan

Atlanta, Ga./Greater Atlanta Christian

PR

First Team

Jacob Burke

Johnstown, Ohio/Northridge

P

Second Team

Anthony Canganelli

Mayfield Village, Ohio/Mayfield

RB

Second Team

Ben Carniol

Vienna, Va./Thomas Jefferson Sci. & Tech.

K

Second Team

Tyler Hamilton

Wyandotte, Mich./Theodore Roosevelt

OL

Second Team

Nate Nachazel

Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny

DL

Second Team 

KJ Pederson

Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield

OLB

Second Team

Aaron Weisberg

Plantation, Fla./American Heritage

ILB

Second Team

Gage Blair

Elyria, Ohio/Sr. Edward

OL

Honorable Mention

Dante Capicchioni

Birmingham, Mich./Seaholm

OL

Honorable Mention

Jordan Esteban

Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit Prep

S

Honorable Mention

Nate Lewis

Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Kenston

OL

Honorable Mention

Justin Williams

Manor, Pa./Penn-Trafford

DL

Honorable Mention

 

CoSIDA Academic All-America

Dayton Snyder

West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette

DL

First Team

Scott Suren

Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick

DB

First Team

 

CoSIDA Academic All-District

Dayton Snyder

West Lafayette, Ind./West Lafayette

DL

First Team

Scott Suren

Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick

DB

First Team

 

D3football.com Team of the Week

Jacob Burke

Johnstown, Ohio/Northridge

Oct. 26 (Punter)

Adrian Cannon

Lake View, N.Y. (Frontier Central)

Nov. 2 (DB)

 

PAC Player of the Week

Rob Cuda

Bartlett, Ill./South Elgin

Sep. 21 (Off.), Oct. 12 (Off.), Oct. 26 (Off.)

Ben Carniol

Vienna, Va./Thomas Jefferson Sci. & Tech.

Oct. 19 (ST), Nov. 9 (ST)

Scott Suren

Brunswick, Ohio/Brunswick

Oct. 5 (Def.)

 

UAA Athlete of the Week

Rob Cuda

Bartlett, Ill./South Elgin

Oct. 5 (Off.), Oct. 12 (Off.), Oct. 26 (Off.)

Ben Carniol

Vienna, Va./Thomas Jefferson Sci. & Tech.

Oct. 19 (ST), Nov. 9 (ST)

Andrew Banathy

Tinley Park, Ill./Providence Catholic

Sep. 21 (Def.)

Jacob Burke

Johnstown, Ohio/Northridge

Oct. 26 (ST)

Cody Calhoun

Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Watterson

Oct. 12 (Def.)

Adrian Cannon

Lake View, N.Y. (Frontier Central)

Nov. 2 (Def.)

Justin Williams

Manor, Pa./Penn-Trafford

Oct. 19 (Def.)


The following were the Spartans leaders during the 2015 season:

Passing Yards

Rob Cuda

2,631

Passing TDs

Rob Cuda

28

Rushing Yards

Rob Cuda

709

Rushing TDs

Rob Cuda

8

Receptions

Bryan Erb

65

Receiving Yards

Bryan Erb

856

Receiving TDs

Bryan Erb

13

Tackles

Gavin Sandidge

60

Sacks

Nate Nachazel

7.0

Tackles for a Loss

Nate Nachazel

11.0

Interceptions

Nick Kwon

4

Forced Fumbles

Nate Nachazel

3