The 23rd/19th-ranked Case Western Reserve University football team fended off an upset bid from Saint Vincent College on Saturday afternoon, picking up a 34-26 win over the Bearcats at Chuck Noll Field in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.
The Spartans improved to 6-0 overall with the win, and remained in the lead in the Presidents' Athletic Conference standings with a 5-0 conference record. Saint Vincent dropped to 1-5 overall with a 1-4 PAC record.
On a day when the Spartans' running game struggled, sophomore quarterback Drew Saxton and the Spartans passing attack picked up the slack. Saxton completed 30-of-50 passes for a career-high 416 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception on a tipped pass. The 416 passing yards marked the fourth-highest single game mark in program history. Saxton also caught a 19-yard pass on a reverse in the second quarter of the game.
Three different receivers registered 100-yard games for the Spartans. Senior Mario Robaina registered career-highs with 11 receptions and 139 yards. Junior Chase Witte caught six passes, including one for a touchdown, and tallied a career-high 112 yards. Junior wide receiver Colt Morgan caught a pair of touchdowns in the first half of the game, and finished the contest with six catches for 100 yards.
Despite allowing a season-high 459 yards in the game, the Spartans defense forced three key Saint Vincent turnovers, with senior safety Patrick Crossey, junior safety Nick Kadlecik and senior cornerback Kevin Chrissis each picking off a pass in the game.
The Spartans jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the game on a pair of five-yard touchdown catches by Morgan, the first coming with 1:00 left in the opening quarter, and the second with 11:13 to play in the second quarter. Saint Vincent got on the board late in the first half, going 88 yards on three plays, including a 36-yard touchdown pass from Lorenzo Cota to Keith Kalp. However, the Spartans extended their lead to 17-6 going into halftime on a 32-yard field goal by sophomore Robertson Albrecht.
The pace of the game picked up in the third quarter, with the two teams combining for 34 points during the period. Saint Vincent cut the Spartans' lead to 17-13 on a 36-yard pass from Cota to Braden Hone with 10:40 to play in the third. CWRU would provide an answer on the next drive, going 67 yards in just a minute and 21 seconds on three plays, including a 28-yard pass from Saxton to sophomore running back Donald Day III to extend the lead to 24-13 with 9:13 remaining in the period.
After the Bearcats registered another TD to get back within five points, junior Travis Johnston registered a season-long 55-yard kick return, setting up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Saxton to Witte on the next play, putting CWRU back in front 31-19 with 6:28 to play in the third quarter. Saint Vincent would not go away easily, however, as the Bearcats' Mike Stasko caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Cota with 4:14 to play, cutting the Spartans' lead back to 31-26 after a failed two-point conversion.
The Spartans maintained a five-point lead until the closing minutes of the game, when the team grinded out a 10-play 65-yard drive, taking close to six minutes off the clock. On third-and-five from their own 28 yard line with 8:30 remaining, Saxton connected with Robaina for a key 42-yard catch-and-run, keeping possession for the Spartans. Albrecht capped off the drive with his second field goal of the contest, a 29-yard kick, to put the Spartans ahead by eight with 3:34 to play.
Saint Vincent made one last attempt to even the score, driving 59 yards downfield on their final possession of the game, but Chrissis picked off Cota's pass at the one-yard line with five seconds remaining in the game on a second-and-two from the Spartans' 16-yard line to secure the victory.
The Spartans will return home next Saturday to host Geneva College at DiSanto Field in Cleveland, Ohio. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.