#22 CWRU Football to Open 2017 Season at Chicago

#22 CWRU Football to Open 2017 Season at Chicago

2017 Case Western Reserve University Football
Game #1: #22 CWRU (0-0, 0-0 PAC, 0-0 UAA) vs. University of Chicago (0-0, 0-0 MWC)
Saturday, September 2, 2017 · 1:00 p.m. ET · Chicago, Ill. (Stagg Field)

Live Stats:

To download the complete game notes, click here.

The Case Western Reserve University football team (0-0, 0-0 PAC, 0-0 UAA), ranked 22nd in the D3football.com Preseason Poll, will kick off its 2017 season on Saturday, September 2nd at 1:00 p.m. eastern time, traveling to Chicago, Illinois to face the University of Chicago (0-0, 0-0 MWC) at Stagg Field.

Case Western Reserve was ranked 22nd in the D3football.com Preseason Poll and 20th in the Street & Smith's College Football Division III Top-25.  Last year, the Spartans were ranked as high as 18th in the D3football.com poll, after receiving votes in the preseason rankings.

The Spartans are coming off a 9-1 campaign in 2016, including a University Athletic Association Championship with a 2-1 conference record, and a second-place finish in the Presidents' Athletic Conference with a 7-1 league record.  CWRU is returning 60 players from last year's team, including 21 starters, and has added 44 newcomers to the squad.

Last season, the Spartans averaged 39.2 points per game on 497.9 yards of offense per contest, including 257.9 rushing yards and 240.0 passing yards.  The defense yielded just 17.3 points per contest on 320.7 yards per game, including 129.9 rushing yards and 190.8 passing yards.

Top returners on offense for CWRU include senior center Gage Blair, an All-Region Third Team honoree, and senior quarterback Rob Cuda, the 2016 UAA Offensive Most Valuable Player.  Other returning All-PAC honorees for the Spartans include second team selections in senior running back Jacob Burke and senior guard Ryan DeMarinis, and honorable mention senior guard Ryan Merlau.

All-PAC second team junior defensive end Cameron Brown will be back for the CWRU defense, as with honorable mention selections in senior cornerback Adrian Cannon, and senior linebackers Chanan Demery and Justin McMahon.

Chicago finished the 2016 season with a 4-6 overall record, including a 3-2 mark in home games.  The Maroons went 0-3 in the UAA to finish fourth in the conference standings, and notched a 4-4 mark in the Southern Athletic Association.  The team is scheduled to return 47 total players, including 12 with starting experience.

Chicago averaged 25.7 points per game in 2016 on 485.6 yards of offense per game, including 381.0 passing yards and 104.6 rushing yards.  Defensively, the squad yielded 24.6 points per game on 510.0 yards, including 197.2 rushing yards and 312.8 passing yards.

Top returners on offense for the Maroons include All-UAA First Team running back Chandler Carroll and conference Rookie of the Year receiver Dante Nepa.  The defense features a strong returning secondary, with All-UAA First Team honorees Andrew Beytagh (senior CB) and Jeremy Vincent (junior SS) and second team selection Bill Rotnicki (sophomore FS) slated to be back for Chicago.

Case Western Reserve is coached by Greg Debeljak, a 1988 graduate of John Carroll University, who has a career record of 91-42 (.684) during his previous 13 seasons with the team. Debeljak has led the Spartans to five UAA Championships in the last 10 years with three consecutive undefeated (10-0) regular seasons and NCAA Playoff berths from 2007-09. Since the beginning of the 2007 season, Case Western Reserve has posted an outstanding overall record of 78-25, earning Debeljak and his assistants the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year award five times (2007-09, '11, '16).

Chicago is led by Chris Wilkerson who is beginning his fifth season with the team.  The 1995 graduate of Eastern Illinois has compiled a 24-15 record as a head coach, all with the Maroons.

Unlike previous seasons, this year's matchup between the Spartans and the Maroons will not count towards the UAA standings.  With Chicago joining the Midwest Conference as a full-time football affiliate member beginning this season, only CWRU, Carnegie Mellon and Washington University (Mo.) will be competing for the UAA title in 2017.

This year's contest holds special meaning, as it will mark and end to a stretch of 28-consecutive years that the two teams have played each other, with Chicago making the move to the Midwest Conference.  The Maroons hold a slight edge in the series, 14-13, including a 9-4 advantage in games played in Chicago.  However, the Spartans have come away with wins in eight of the last 11 meetings.

Last year, the Spartans topped Chicago 45-17 in the teams' season-opener in Cleveland on September 3rd.  The Spartans ran for 250 yards during the game, including 125 and two touchdowns from Rob Cuda, who also completed 17-of-21 passes for 217 yards and another two scores.  Myles Anthony added 73 yards on the ground, while Justin Phan caught four passes for 62 yards and returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown.  Defensively, Andrew Banathy led the team with 11 tackles, with Chanan Demery adding nine and Zach Lyon eight with 1.5 for a loss.

The Spartans are 22-23-1 all-time in season-opening games, including wins in 13 of their last 14 season openers.  This is the third-straight season that CWRU and Chicago have opened against each other, with the teams splitting the first two season-opening matchups.

CWRU was picked to finish third in the PAC for the second-straight season in a preseason poll of coaches, sports information directors and local media at the 2017 PAC Media Day.  CWRU received three first-place votes and 302 total points in the poll.  Coming in ahead of the Spartans were #19 Thomas More College, with 23 first-place votes and 345 total points, followed by Washington & Jefferson, with six first place votes and 308 points.  Westminster was picked to finish fourth, followed by Carnegie Mellon, Saint Vincent, Bethany, Thiel, Geneva, Waynesburg and Grove City, in that order.

The Spartans were a perfect 5-0 in road games last season, outscoring their opponents by a 209-81 margin in games away from DiSanto Field.

Last year, the Spartans set a program record with 2,624 rushing yards as a team.  Jacob Burke led the team with 1,065 yards on the ground, becoming the fourth 1,000-yard rusher in program history, while Rob Cuda added 908 rushing yards, the eighth-most in a single season in CWRU history and most-ever in a campaign by a Spartan quarterback.