For the second-straight year, the Academic Bowl went into overtime, but the 33rd-edition of the game had a different ending, with the 19th-ranked Case Western Reserve University Spartans suffering a 29-23 setback to the Carnegie Mellon University Tartans in their season finale at DiSanto Field on Saturday evening.
After an interception in the end zone by Carnegie Mellon's Anthony Kennon on a first-and-10 play ended the Spartans' first and only drive in overtime, the Tartans' Chris Haas carried the ball three-straight times for 25 yards, including a nine-yard game winning touchdown run. It capped off a career-best 210 yard day on the ground for Haas.
Freshman quarterback Drew Saxton completed 21-of-49 passes for 331 yards, and threw a touchdown to match the program's single-season record with 34 this season. He finished the year with 3,033 yards, marking the third individual season of 3,000 or more passing yards in program history. Sophomore wide receiver Colt Morgan caught nine passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, giving him a program-record 18 touchdown receptions, 79 total receptions (second in program history) and 1,094 receiving yards (also the second-most in program history). In the final game of his collegiate career, senior wide receiver Luke DiFrancesco caught six passes for 143 yards, including an 11-yard catch to covert a fourth down play in overtime.
Junior cornerback Kevin Chrissis picked off a pair of passes in the game, returning one for a touchdown, and junior safety Patrick Crossey had a season-high 16 tackles in the game.
After forcing a three-and-out to start the game, the Spartans took a 3-0 lead on their first drive of the game on a 21-yard field goal by freshman kicker Robertson Albrecht with 11:43 remaining in the opening period. After forcing a second-straight three-and-out on Carnegie Mellon's second drive, the Spartans buffered their lead with Albrecht's second field goal of the game, this time a 31 yard kick to extend the advantage to 6-0 with 6:18 to play in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Chrissis picked off a pass in the flat and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown, giving CWRU a 13-0 lead with 14:06 to play in the half. However, the Tartans would score the final 10 points of the half, closing the gap to 13-10 by the break.
The Spartans added to their lead on their first drive of the second half, going 69 yards on five plays, and scoring on Saxton's program-record tying touchdown pass, hitting Morgan on a 14-yard strike for the score. However, an eight-yard touchdown run by Willie Richter with 5:11 left in the third quarter, along with a missed extra point, pulled the Tartans back within four, 20-16, and a 29-yard pass from Alex Cline to Karl Kumm with 8:22 to play in the game gave Carnegie Mellon its first lead of the game, 23-20. A 73-yard catch pass from Saxton to DiFrancesco setup Albrecht's third field goal of the contest, this time from 18 yards out with 5:50 to play, tying the game at 23-23 and sending it into overtime after unsuccessful drives to end regulation for each team.
CWRU started overtime with the ball, and converted a fourth-and-10 on an 11-yard pass from Saxton to DiFrancesco, but an interception on the next play gave the Tartans a chance to win the game, setting up the game-winning drive for Carnegie Mellon.
The ending marked a reversal of fortunes from last year, when the Spartans prevailed in overtime, 41-34, in Pittsburgh.
With the loss, the Spartans finished the season with an 8-2 record, and placed second in the PAC with a 7-2 conference ledger. Carnegie Mellon improved to 5-4, including a 4-4 mark in the PAC, with one game remaining on its schedule next weekend.
CWRU also celebrated 'Senior Day' on Saturday, with the team's 11 graduating players – Steven Bachie, Chaz Brown, Tyler Bushman, DiFrancesco, Ian Henderson, Jason Lockamy, Justin Phan, Joey Spitalli, David Traganza, Hunter Tulloch and JP Wassmann – being recognized during a ceremony prior to the start of the game.