#19 Spartans Fall to #12 W&J 44-36 in Battle of PAC Unbeatens

Photo by Martin Santak Photography
Photo by Martin Santak Photography

Case Western Reserve University freshman quarterback Drew Saxton threw for a career-high 414 yards, and sophomore wide receiver Colt Morgan matched his own program record with four touchdown receptions, but it was not enough for the 19th-ranked Spartans, who fell 44-36 at 12th-ranked Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The loss dropped the Spartans to 4-1 on the season and to 3-1 in Presidents' Athletic Conference play, ending a stretch of 14-consecutive regular season wins for CWRU.  Washington and Jefferson raised its record to 6-0, with a 5-0 mark in conference games.

Saxton completed 29-of-44 passes for 414 yards and a career-high tying five touchdowns, falling just 17 yards shy of CWRU's single-game freshman record of 431, set by Nick Leskiewicz against Denison in 1994. Morgan finished the game with career-highs with 13 receptions and 190 yards, and matched the program record with four receiving touchdowns, originally set by Jason Cellura in 2002 against Kalamazoo, and matched earlier this year by Morgan against Grove City.

Senior wide receiver Luke DiFrancesco added seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in the game, and sophomore running back Kyle Turkovsky carried the ball 10 times for a career-high 59 yards.  On defense, sophomores Brian Victor and Joshua Smith each recorded a team-high 10 tackles in the game.

As a team, CWRU finished with a 523-505 edge in total yards of offense, including a 414-291 edge in passing yards.  However, the Presidents would ultimately take advantage of four Spartan turnovers, scoring 14 points off them, and CWRU struggled to stop running back Jordan West, who finished with 339 yards of total offense and six touchdowns.

The Spartans moved the ball from the start, going 80 yards on their opening drive.  Saxton, who went six-for-seven for 73 yards passing on the drive, converted a fourth-and-two at the Presidents' 31 yard line with a five-yard pass to senior wide receiver Justin Phan, and scored two plays later on a 25-yard pass to Morgan.  Washington & Jefferson responded on their opening drive, with quarterback Jacob Adams evening the score with a 21-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan West with 7:45 to play in the opening quarter.

CWRU regained the lead with an 80-yard drive that started in the first quarter, and ended on the first play of the second on a six-yard touchdown pass from Saxton to Morgan, putting the Spartans ahead 14-7.  CWRU was driving again later in the half to extend its lead, but Washington and Jefferson recovered a fumble at their own 44 yard line, and converted a pair of fourth downs on the ensuing drive (including a 20-yard run for a first down on a punt play), en route to pulling closer on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Adams to West with 3:03 to play in the half.  Senior Tyler Bushman would block the resulting extra point attempt to keep the Spartans ahead 14-13, but a late drive by the Presidents resulted in a field goal as time expired in the half to give Washington & Jefferson their first lead of the game, 16-13, heading into the break.

The Presidents opened the second half with a touchdown on their first drive to expand their lead to 23-14.  CWRU responded with an 11 play, 75 yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock, pulling back within two on the third touchdown pass of the game from Saxton to Morgan, this time for 37 yards, with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter.  Washington & Jefferson answered back again, regaining a nine point lead, 30-21, on West's fourth touchdown of the game, this time on an eight-yard run.

Washington & Jefferson would reach the Spartans' eight yard line on their next drive, but the Spartans would stop their drive on fourth down and goal with 13:42 left in the game.  The Spartans' offense then drove 92 yards on 13 plays, converting a key fourth-and-11 play on a 16-yard pass to Morgan, and scoring four plays later on a four-yard pass from Saxton to Morgan, cutting the lead back to two, 30-28.  However, West would again provide the response for the Presidents with a 75-yard scoring run with 8:30 to go, and after an interceptions on back-to-back drives, West helped cement the game with a 98-yard run to extend the lead to 44-28 with 3:38 to play.

The Spartans kept hope alive with a late touchdown drive, with DiFrancesco scoring a nine-yard touchdown on a pass by Saxton with 1:24 to play, and senior wide receiver Joey Spitalli catching a two-point conversion to pull the Spartans back within eight points.  Out of time outs and needing to recover an onside kick, the Spartans came close, almost recovering the ball after it was initially touched by a Washington and Jefferson player, but the Presidents' came away with the ball to seal the victory.

The loss was the first for the Spartans in the regular season since the final game of the 2016 season, and also ended a stretch of 12-straight regular season road victories for the team.

After Saturday's game, through five games, Saxton has now completed 69.4% of his passes with 1,597 yards (391 yards shy of the program's freshman record) and 19 touchdowns.  Morgan has caught 37 passes for 477 yards and 11 touchdowns, and is two shy of matching Bryan Erb's (2015) single-season program record.

The Spartans will look to rebound next Saturday, October 13th at 1:00 p.m., when the team returns to Cleveland to celebrate Homecoming against Saint Vincent College to DiSanto Field.