#21 Spartans Fall to Carnegie Mellon in Regular Season Finale

#21 Spartans Fall to Carnegie Mellon in Regular Season Finale

In a hard-fought game at DiSanto Field in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday afternoon, the Case Western Reserve University Spartans, ranked 21st in Division III, suffered a 26-21 loss to Carnegie Mellon University in the 31st Academic Bowl.

With the loss, the Spartans ended their regular season with an overall record 9-1, the most wins in a season by CWRU since going 9-1 during the 2011 campaign.  In addition, Case Western Reserve finished second in the PAC with a 7-1 conference record, the team's best finish since joining the conference as an affiliate member in 2014.

However, despite the stellar campaign, the Spartans chances at an NCAA Tournament berth took a major hit with the loss.  Already needing an at-large bid to qualify for the playoff field prior to the game, Case Western Reserve will have to wait for the selection of the NCAA Playoff field on ncaa.com on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. to find out its fate.

Carnegie Mellon improved to 7-3 overall and to 6-2 in the PAC with the win, while clinching a share of the UAA title with CWRU and Washington (Mo.), as all three teams finished the year with a 2-1 conference record.

Twice returning from injuries during the game, junior quarterback Rob Cuda battled his way to 123 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while completing 15-of-30 passes for 186 yards and another score.  Junior running back Jacob Burke added another 88 yards on the ground in the game, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

The Spartans took the early lead on Saturday, when Cuda found sophomore receiver Joey Spitalli in the end zone with an 11-yard pass on the opening drive of the game.  The score remained 7-0 until the second quarter, when Carnegie Mellon's Zach Cree caught a four-yard evening the score with 9:54 remaining in the first half.  The score remained 7-7 through the remainder of the half.

Carnegie Mellon scored 10 unanswered points to start the second half, when Gabe Renna converted a 21-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter, and a 45-yard touchdown run by Sam Benger extended the advantage to 17-7 with 6:06 remaining in the third.  Cuda responded with a 37-yard touchdown run with 3:46 left in the quarter, cutting the lead to 17-14. 

The Tartans opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown run by Benger with 14:25 left in the game.  The Spartans remained close, cutting the lead back to a field goal with an eight-play, 67 yard drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back Myles Anthony

After each team traded punts on the next two drives, Carnegie Mellon launched on a clock-grinding six minute and 23 second drive, before turning the ball over on downs on the CWRU one yard line with 30 seconds remaining.  However, Cuda was sacked by Jack Fagan with 17 seconds left, giving Carnegie Mellon a 26-21 advantage.

The Spartans had one last opportunity, recovering a pair of onside kicks following the safety, the first of which was negated due to a false start.  With the ball on his own 16 yard line, Cuda dropped back and threw a deep pass to the middle of the field that was picked off by Samer Adbelmoty, ending the game.

Senior cornerback Nick Kwon led the Spartans with 16 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the game, while sophomore defensive end Cameron Brown added a pair of sacks.

Burke finished the season with 1,065 yards, the fourth-most in a campaign in program history, while Cuda added 908 yards on the ground, the seventh-most by a player in CWRU history.  Case Western Reserve rushed for 2,579 yards as a team during the year, 600 more than the previous school record, set during the 2007 season.