#23 Spartans Set to Open 2018 with Renewed Rivalry against Rochester

#23 Spartans Set to Open 2018 with Renewed Rivalry against Rochester

2018 Case Western Reserve University Football
Game #1 – #23 CWRU (0-0, 0-0 PAC, 0-0 UAA) vs. Univ. of Rochester (0-0, 0-0 LL, 0-0 UAA)
Saturday, September 1, 2018 · 7:00 p.m. · Cleveland, Ohio (DiSanto Field)

Live Stats: https://athletics.case.edu/sports/fball/2018-19/boxscores/20180901_m3v5.xml
Video: https://case.edu/livestream/athletics/

Click here for the complete game notes in .pdf format

The 23rd-ranked Case Western Reserve University Spartans will open their 2018 campaign Saturday at 7:00 p.m., as the squad will reignite its rivalry against the University of Rochester Yellowjackets in a University Athletic Association match-up.

The Spartans are calling on Case Western Reserve University students to pack the stands for a special 'Student Saturday' event at DiSanto Field.  A number of special events are scheduled to be held, including a kicking contest at halftime, as a student will be drawn at random for a chance to win a 40-inch flat screen television.  For more information on the event, go to https://athletics.case.edu/sports/fball/2018-19/releases/20180828efjebe.

The Spartans are coming off an 11-1 campaign last season, including an 8-0 Presidents' Athletic Conference record and a 3-0 University Athletic Association mark, while ending the year ranked 13th in the D3football.com Top-25.  CWRU reached the second round of the NCAA Playoffs during the year, matching the best finish in the program's history, and recorded a perfect 10-0 regular season, marking the fifth undefeated regular season ever by a Spartan team.

Case Western Reserve is returning 70 players from last year's roster, including four offensive and four defensive starters.  Among the team's top returning players are senior defensive end Cameron Brown, an All-PAC First Team honoree, senior defensive lineman Ian Henderson and senior wide receiver Justin Phan, both All-PAC Second Team selections, All-PAC honorable mention junior safety Patrick Crossey, and an All-UAA First Team honoree in senior tackle Steven Bachie.

Other returning starters for the team on offense include junior tackle Derek Clontz and senior wide receiver Luke DiFrancesco, and junior cornerback Kevin Chrissis on defense.

Rochester will enter 2018 looking to improve on a 2-7 record last season, including an 0-5 mark in the Liberty League.

The Yellowjackets are returning 20 starters from last year's team and a total of 48 letterwinners.  Top returners for Rochester include senior left tackle Matt Capovani, an All-Liberty League Second Team honoree, and senior linebacker Ricky Simcic, an honorable mention to the All-Liberty League team.  Other starters slated to return for Rochester are junior wide receiver Tyler Tanen, senior left guard Nick Balch, senior center Kyle Pullyblank, sophomore right guard Arin Samad, senior tight end Dan DiLorento, senior quarterback Josh Brown, sophomore running back Jason Cunningham, senior nose tackle Mike Shepard, senior defensive tackle Tim Mascari, senior defensive end Ryan Bell, junior linebacker Jordan Caviness, senior linebacker Christian Marini, senior cornerback Jimmy D'Iorio, and junior safeties Austin Carr and Mike Woodarek.

Saturday's game will mark the first time that the Spartans and the Yellowjackets have played each other since the 2011 season.  Rochester holds a 10-8 lead in the all-time series, which began in 1990, including a 6-2 edge in games played in Cleveland.

CWRU is led by Head Coach Greg Debeljak, a 1988 graduate of John Carroll University, who will be starting his 15th season with the team in 2018.  He will enter the campaign with a 102-43 career record, good for a .703 winning percentage, and has led the team to six UAA Championships, four NCAA playoff appearances, and its first PAC Championship in 2017.  Debeljak was named the PAC Coach of the Year last season, while also securing the UAA Coaching Staff of the Year Award for the sixth time in 2017.

Rochester will begin a new era under Head Coach Chad Martinovich, a 1994 graduate of Hobart College.  Martinovich will be joining the Yellowjackets after a nine-year stretch at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, going 37-49 and reaching the second round of the NCAA playoffs in 2014.

The Spartans made the fourth NCAA playoff appearance in program history in 2017, and their first since qualifying three-consecutive years from 2007-09.  After receiving an at-large bid to the tournament field, Case Western Reserve went on to top Illinois Wesleyan 28-0 in its opening game of the postseason (the second NCAA playoff win in program history), before falling to eventual National Champions Mount Union 45-16 in the second round.

The Spartans claimed the first PAC Championship in program history in 2017, sharing the conference title with Washington & Jefferson College after each squad went 8-0 in PAC games during the year.  CWRU also won the UAA Championship for the seventh time in program history, and claimed sole possession of the league title for the fifth time.  It marked the second-straight UAA Championship for Case Western Reserve.

The University Athletic Association football standings will have a new look for the 2018 season.  With the football departure of both Chicago (Midwest Conference) and Washington (College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) over the last two years, the UAA title will now be up for grabs between CWRU, Carnegie Mellon and Rochester.

In addition to the changes to the UAA, the PAC schedule will also change with the departure of Thomas More.  With 10 football playing teams now in the conference, the league schedule has expanded to nine games starting in 2018, allowing each of the teams to play each other during the campaign.

The Spartans are 23-23-1 all-time in season-opening games, including wins in 14 of their last 15 season openers.  Last year, CWRU picked up a road win against the University of Chicago to open the season, defeating the Maroons 34-14 behind a program-record 15-reception game for Justin Phan.  This will be the seventh time overall and the first time since 1995 that the Spartans and the Yellowjackets have met to open a season, with Rochester claiming wins in the previous six season-opening contests.

The Spartans are 12-2 in home-opening games under Head Coach Greg Debeljak, including a 42-10 win over Grove City last season.  Case Western Reserve has won its last four home-opening games by a combined score of 166-41.

The Spartans are 49-19 all-time in home games at DiSanto Field, which first opened during the 2005 season.  Included in the overall record is a 19-5 mark at home since the start of the 2013 season, good for a .792 winning percentage.  Case Western Reserve is 9-1 at home over the last two years and has won five-straight home contests, while outscoring its last seven opponents at DiSanto Field 398-178.

Case Western Reserve is 27-3 in its last 30 night games dating back to the 2006 season, including a 9-0 record in night games over the previous three seasons.  Saturday's game will be the first of five night games this season for the Spartans, including four-straight to start the season.