No. 14 Spartans Look to Clinch PAC & UAA Titles vs. Carnegie Mellon

No. 14 Spartans Look to Clinch PAC & UAA Titles vs. Carnegie Mellon

2017 Case Western Reserve University Football
Game #10 – #14 CWRU (9-0, 7-0 PAC, 1-0 UAA) vs. Carnegie Mellon University (7-2, 5-2 PAC, 1-0 UAA)
Saturday, November 11, 2017 · 2:00 p.m. ET · Pittsburgh, Pa. (Gesling Stadium)

Live Stats:

Click here for the complete game notes in .pdf format

The 14th-ranked Case Western Reserve University Spartans (9-0, 7-0 PAC, 1-0 UAA) will look to close out a perfect regular season on Saturday, November 11th at 2:00 p.m., when the team travels to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to face the Carnegie Mellon University Tartans (7-2, 5-2 PAC, 1-0 UAA) in the 32nd-Annual Academic Bowl.

Case Western Reserve University can clinch at least a share of the Presidents' Athletic Conference Championship and claim the University Athletic Association Championship outright with a win over Carnegie Mellon on Saturday.  The Spartans are looking for their first PAC title since joining the conference as an affiliate member prior to the start of the 2014 season, and their second-straight UAA title and seventh overall in program history.  It would also mark the fifth outright UAA Championship earned by the Spartans.

In order to clinch the PAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs, the Spartans would need a win over Carnegie Mellon on Saturday, combined with a loss by 15th-ranked Washington and Jefferson at home against Waynesburg.  Should both teams finish tied atop the conference standings, each would be crowned a PAC Co-Champion, but the automatic bid would go to the Presidents, based on strength of conference wins (conference winning percentage of teams beat in the eight PAC games).  However, with a win the Spartans would still be a strong candidate to be selected for their fourth playoff appearance overall and first since 2009, via an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship field.  The 2017 NCAA Division III football selection show is scheduled to air on on Sunday, November 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Case Western Reserve currently stands at 9-0, including a 7-0 record in the PAC, a 1-0 UAA mark, and a 4-0 road record.  The Spartans have averaged 43.8 points per game (first in the PAC, 10th in DIII) on 464.3 yards of offense (second in the PAC, 27st in DIII), including 279.7 passing yards (second in the PAC, 37th in DIII) and 184.7 rushing yards per game.  The defense leads the PAC with just 15.0 points allowed (29th in DIII), 259.8 total yards (17th in DIII), and 111.4 rushing yards (51st in DIII) per game, and is second with 148.3 passing yards allowed per contest (16th in DIII).  The Spartans average 32:52 time of possession per game, and have a +9 turnover margin.

Senior quarterback Rob Cuda has completed 61.8% of his passes and thrown for 26 touchdowns with just five interceptions, and leads the PAC with 2,339 passing yards.  He has also run for 276 yards and five touchdowns this season.  17 different Spartans have caught at least one pass this year, led by junior wide receiver Justin Phan (42 catches, 490 yards, 5 TDs) and senior wide receiver Zak Hurd (25 catches, 606 yards, 4 TDs), who is ninth in Division III with 24.24 yards per catch.  Other leading targets for Cuda include senior running back Aaron Aguilar (16 catches, 210 yards, 5 TDs), and senior tight end Zech Medved (17 catches, 299 yards, 2 TDs).  The CWRU ground game has been anchored by senior Jacob Burke, who has carried the ball 183 times for 908 yards and 16 touchdowns (first in the PAC and eighth in Division III).

Senior linebacker Justin McMahon leads the team with 56 tackles, including seven for a loss and three fumble recoveries, and senior linebacker Andrew Banathy has added 52 tackles with 8.5 for a loss and a team-leading four sacks.  Junior defensive end Cameron Brown has a Spartan-best nine for a loss, including 3.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries, while junior defensive tackle Ian Henderson has forced three fumbles, and senior defensive end Dan Techman has chipped in 47 tackles, including 6.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks.  Sophomore safety Patrick Crossey has a team-best four pass breakups and three interceptions, while freshman defensive back Nick Kadlecik and senior cornerback Adrian Cannon have each added two interceptions apiece. 

Senior placekicker Ben Carniol has made six-of-eight field goal tries and 50-of-52 extra point attempts.  Freshman punter Quinn Saluan has punted 27 times for an average of 37.0 yards, including nine inside the 20 yard line.  Phan has returned 14 punts for an average of 11.3 yards, and senior safety Cody Calhoun has 18 kick returns for an average of 22.3 yards.

Carnegie Mellon will enter Saturday's game with a 7-2 overall record, including marks of 5-2 in the PAC, 1-0 in the UAA and 3-1 at home this season.  The Tartans' offense is averaging 32.6 points per game on 371.1 yards of offense, including 213.2 passing yards and 157.9 rushing yards.  Defensively, the squad has yielded 17.4 points per game on 343.2 yards, including 207.3 rushing yards and 135.9 passing yards (the best in the PAC and 10th overall in Division III).  Carnegie Mellon averages a time of possession of 26:46 per game, and has a +8 turnover margin.

Junior quarterback Alex Cline has had a breakout season for the Tartans, completing 58.9% of his passes for 1,827 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions, while rushing for another 131 yards with three touchdowns.  His top target has been senior receiver John Prather, who has 55 receptions for 906 yards and 11 touchdowns, with senior receiver Tommy Mansfield adding 27 catches for 390 yards and four scores.  Senior All-American Sam Benger leads the team's rushing attack with 864 yards and nine scores, with junior Rory Hubbard adding 255 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior safety Drew Fitzmorris leads all Tartans with 86 tackles and eight pass breakups, and senior linebacker Quentin Wolfe has added 66 tackles this season.  Sophomore defensive end Michael Lohmeier has paced the pass rush with five sacks and eight total tackles for a loss.  Senior linebacker Sean Graff has a team-high three interceptions and junior Ethan Anderson has recovered a team-high four fumbles.

Senior kicker Tyler Kohman has made three-of-eight field goal tries and 36-of-39 extra point attempts this year, while also punting 35 times for a Division III leading average of 47.0 yards per punt, with 18 landing inside the opponents' 20-yard line.  Sophomore Willie Richter has returned 15 kicks for an average of 21.8 yards and 22 punts for an average of 14.6 yards and a touchdown, and Hubbard has added 11 kick returns for an average of 31.1 yards and a score.

CWRU Head Coach Greg Debeljak claimed the 100th win of his career with last Saturday's win over Westminster College, improving to 100-42 (.704) during his 14-year career, all with the Spartan program.  The 1988 graduate of John Carroll University has led Case Western Reserve 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 overall record of 87-25, (good for a .777 winning percentage), earning Debeljak and his assistants the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year award five times (2007-09, 2011, and 2016).

Carnegie Mellon is under the leadership of Rich Lackner, a 1979 graduate of the University.  Now in his 32nd season with the Tartans, Lackner has gone 210-112-2 over his head coaching career, and began the season as the third-winningest active head coach in Division III.

Each fall, student-athletes from Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University meet on the gridiron with the victor claiming the Academic Bowl. Although the football series between the Spartans and Tartans began in 1970, it wasn't until 1986 when the annual meeting between two of the nation's top academic institutions was labeled the Academic Bowl.

With each school ranked amongst the nation's elite research and scholastic institutions, a natural rivalry exists in academics. So as competition in the classroom continues, the winner of the coveted Academic Bowl can claim bragging rights on the athletic field for at least one year.

The Academic Bowl is more than a trophy, however, as it emphasizes a "Commitment to Academic and Athletic Excellence."

The Spartans won the first Academic Bowl in 1986, defeating Carnegie Mellon 21-14. In the all-time Academic Bowl series, the Tartans hold a 17-14 advantage.  Carnegie Mellon leads the overall series 28-18, including a 15-5 record in games played in Pittsburgh.

The Spartans will be looking to turn around a two-game losing streak to the Tartans, including a 26-21 setback in Cleveland last season.  Rob Cuda ran for 123 yards and a touchdown in the game, while throwing for another score, and Justin McMahon registered 10 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.  Case Western Reserve outgained Carnegie Mellon 451-432 in the game, including a 265-166 edge in rushing yards.


Case Western Reserve was dominant in its final home game of the 2017 regular season, defeating Westminster 41-10 last Saturday.  Jacob Burke led the way on the ground, carrying the ball 26 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns, while Rob Cuda threw for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Defensively, CWRU's Patrick Crossey led the team with 11 tackles, as the Spartans outgained the Titans 442-415 in the game.

Jacob Burke
was named the PAC Offensive Athlete of the Week for the first time in his career following his effort against Westminster last Saturday.  Burke was also named the UAA Offensive Player of the Week for the second-straight week, the third time this season, and the fifth time overall during his career.

After the team's statement win over Westminster last week, the Spartans jumped two spots in the Top-25 to 14th, the team's highest ranking in the poll this season.  CWRU is now the highest ranked PAC team in the poll, with Washington & Jefferson holding tight at 15th in the rankings for the second-straight week.  Case Western Reserve was also ranked 16th in the latest AFCA Top-25, with fellow PAC schools Washington & Jefferson coming in at 10th, and Carnegie Mellon receiving votes.

With a win on Saturday, Case Western Reserve can secure the fifth undefeated regular season in the program's history, along with 1984, 2007, 2008 and 2009.  The Spartans are one of 12 undefeated teams left in Division III football, and one of two remaining in the PAC, along with Washington and Jefferson.

The Spartans have won all three of their road games this season, and have won nine-straight road contests dating back to last year.  CWRU has outscored its opponents 386-144 in the nine games during the streak (42.9 to 16.0 per game), including a 177-63 margin this season.

CWRU has held its opponent scoreless through an entire half six times through nine games this season.  The Spartans' defense shutout Saint Vincent in the first half of their matchup, and held Chicago, Grove City, Bethany, Geneva and Westminster without a point in the second half of their games.  CWRU has allowed one or fewer touchdowns in four of their nine games this season.

The Spartans have scored at least 33 points in all nine games this season.  CWRU has registered 40 or more points in four straight games, and six times overall in 2017.

Rob Cuda's
2,339 passing yards this season are the sixth-most in a year in program history, and just 292 behind his career high of 2,631 yards, set during the 2015 campaign… Cuda also is on pace for a program record in single-season passing efficiency (174.8) and his 26 passing touchdowns rank as the fourth most in CWRU history… Jacob Burke's 16 rushing touchdowns this year tie him with his own total from last year for the second-most in program history, and are three behind Brandon McDowell's record of 19 (2001)… Burke's 908 rushing yards are the eighth-most in a season in CWRU history, and he is just 92 yards away from becoming the second CWRU running back ever with two 1,000-yard seasons, and the first to reach the milestone in back-to-back years… Zak Hurd's 24.24 yards per reception is on pace for a program record… Justin Phan's 11.29 yards per punt return this year rank fifth in school history… Ben Carniol's 68 points are the fifth-most by a kicker in program history, and his 50 made extra points are seven short of the CWRU single-season record, set by Sam Coffey in 2009.

Rob Cuda
is second in school history with 7,392 passing yards and 74 touchdowns over his career… Jacob Burke is eighth in program history with 2,065 rushing yards, while Cuda ranks 10th with 1,898 yards… Burke's 33 rushing touchdowns are the second-most ever by a Spartan, and six behind Brandon McDowell's record of 39… Cody Calhoun is third in program history in career kick return average (24.09)… Ben Carniol is second all-time among kickers with 202 career points… Zech Medved is 83 receiving yards shy of 1,000 for his career… Senior Zach Lyon is three tackles away from 100 for his career… Senior linebacker Chanan Demery is eight tackles away from 100 for his career.