Case Western Reserve University junior wide receiver Justin Phan matched a program record with 15 receptions during the team's opener on Saturday afternoon, leading the 22nd-ranked Spartans to a 34-14 win at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.
The Spartans overcame a 14-0 deficit after the first quarter, as the CWRU defense held the Maroons scoreless over the final three quarters of the game, allowing the offense to put up 34 unanswered points against Chicago en route to the victory.
Phan's finished the game with 15 receptions for a career-high 112 yards and two touchdowns. He matched former Spartan Jason Cellura's record for receptions in a game, previously set during the 2002 season against Kalamazoo and in 2003 against Wooster. Phan also added a 52 yard punt return on Saturday.
Senior quarterback Rob Cuda completed 26-of-41 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns in the game, and senior running back Jacob Burke added 56 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Seniors Justin McMahon and Dan Techman each registered a team-leading eight tackles, while sophomores Patrick Crossey and Kevin Chrissis each tallied an interception, with Chrissis returning his for a score.
Chicago struck first in the game, taking possession on the CWRU 31-yard line after a failed fourth and one conversion attempt for the Spartans, and scoring two plays later on a five-yard touchdown run by Chandler Carroll with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter. After a three-and-out on the Spartans' next drive, Chicago blocked a punt and returned it to the CWRU nine-yard line, setting up a touchdown pass from Campbell Garrett to Dante Nepa that extended the score to 14-0.
The Spartans would begin to turn the game around in the second quarter, cutting the lead in half with 10:35 left in the second quarter, when Phan capped off a 45-yard drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception from Cuda.
The score remained 14-7 through the end of the half and into the third quarter, before the Spartans struck for two touchdowns over just a 15-second stretch of game time. An eight-play, 74 yard drive in the third quarter led to Phan's second touchdown of the game, this time a 10-yard reception from Cuda, tying the score at 14-14 with 4:24 remaining in the period. The Spartans would take their first lead of the game moments later, when Chrissis recorded his first career interception, picking off a tipped pass from Garrett and returning it 29 yards for a touchdown to give CWRU a 21-14 advantage with 4:09 remaining in the third quarter.
Chrissis' score marked the first interception returned for a touchdown by a Spartan since former CWRU linebacker Aaron Weisberg did so against Carnegie Mellon on November 14, 2015.
The Spartans would put the game away in the fourth quarter, adding scores on Burke's one-yard touchdown run with 14:11 to play, and a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cuda to senior Zak Hurd (the first touchdown reception of Hurd's career) extending the lead to 34-14 with 11:16 remaining.
Saturday's game marked the 28th-consecutive meeting between the long-time UAA rivals, as the win split the all-time series between the Spartans and the Maroons at 14-14. It is the last scheduled game between the squads, with Chicago's move to the Midwest Conference no longer allowing the team to compete in a full UAA schedule. Saturday's game counted toward neither the Presidents' Athletic Conference nor UAA standings for the Spartans.
Case Western Reserve improved to 1-0 on the year, as the team claimed its 14 opening-game win in the last 15 years. Chicago dropped to 0-1 with the loss.
Case Western Reserve will head into its bye week next weekend, before returning to action two weeks from today, opening its home schedule on Saturday, September 16 at 7:00 p.m. against Grove City College.