On "Senior Day" at DiSanto Field, the #21/17 Case Western Reserve University football team used three second half touchdowns to pull away from Bethany in a 35-14 win to clinch at least a share of the Presidents' Athletic Conference title on Saturday afternoon. The Spartans (8-0, 7-0 PAC) need just one win more to clinch the outright title and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Bethany fell to 3-5 and 3-4 in the PAC.
Junior linebacker Travis Johnston was a factor in all three aspects of the game, rushing for two touchdowns, recovering a fumble, and blocking a punt. The junior linebacker finished the game with seven tackles, 20 yards rushing, and punted the ball three times for an average of 37 yards and placed two inside the 20-yard line.
The day also proved to be a record setting for a pair of Spartans.
Senior defensive end Cameron Brown broke the program record for career sacks in the third quarter. Brown now has 33.5 sacks for his career. He also forced a fumble and recorded two tackles for loss.
With two receiving touchdowns, junior wide receiver Colt Morgan tied the program record for career touchdown receptions with 31. He finished the game with 102 yards receiving on eight catches, his third consecutive game over 100 yards and sixth on the season.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for Case Western Reserve. The Spartans turned the ball over on their first two possessions, first fumbling the ball deep in Bethany territory, then giving the ball up on an interception on the next drive.
The Bison capitalized on the ensuing drive with a touchdown run from senior quarterback Carlin Bason. He took it in from 14 yards out to cap off an eight-play, 55-yard drive. With just over five minutes left in the first quarter, Bethany led Case Western Reserve 7-0.
Then, it was the Spartans' time to take advantage of a mistake on the next drive after a Bison returner muffed a punt. Three plays later, Johnston scored the first offensive touchdown of his career on a three-yard run to tie the score with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Bethany responded on the next drive, re-taking the lead early in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Dom Salinetro found senior wide receiver Abe Lyles from eight yards away to give the Bison a 14-7 lead.
With just over a minute to go in the first half, sophomore quarterback Drew Saxton connected with Morgan from 13 yards out on a touchdown pass to tie the score at 14. It was Saxton's 20th touchdown pass of the season, and he finished the day 18-for-33 for 230 yards through the air with a pair of touchdowns.
Johnston blocked a punt on the opening drive of the second half to give the Spartans excellent field position on their first drive. Case Western Reserve capitalized and drove 24 yards for the score. Saxton used his legs at the end of the drive, running the ball into the end zone from the one-yard line, his second rushing touchdown of the season. The score gave the Spartans a 21-14 lead with just over nine minutes in the third quarter.
On the third play of the team's next drive, Saxton found senior wide receiver Mario Robaina on a 60-yard pass down the right sideline to put the Spartans on the five-yard line. Johnston punched it in again from the four-yard line for his second touchdown of the game to extend the CWRU lead to 28-14.
On the following drive, Johnston was involved again, recovering a fumble forced by senior defensive back Kevin Chrissis.
Sophomore defensive back Colin Schuster intercepted a tipped pass two possessions later to set the Spartans up inside the red zone. Saxton found Morgan again from eight yards out to give CWRU a 35-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Senior defensive back Patrick Crossey intercepted a pass on the next Bethany possession and first-year defensive back D.J. Wolf forced a fumble on the following possession that was recovered by senior defensive back Luke Bedell to give the Spartans' defense five turnovers in the game.
Before the game, the Spartans celebrated their 17 senior members as part of the "Senior Day" celebration. The seniors are Bedell, Brown, Chrissis, offensive lineman Derek Clontz, quarterback/wide receiver Ryan Coolidge, Crossey, defensive lineman Reed Gershenson, running back Sam Jenkins, defensive lineman Andrew Lease, defensive back Munyaradzi Mangwende, tight end Austin Navarrette, defensive lineman Adam Poltrack, Robaina, offensive lineman Josh Schlichting, offensive lineman Thomas Strayer, linebacker Isaac Withrow, and tight end Adam Zybko.
The Spartans hit the road for their final two games of the regular season. First up is a trip to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania to take on Waynesburg College (1-7, 1-6 PAC) at 1:30 p.m. Then, Case Western Reserve ends the regular season with the 34th annual Academic Bowl against Carnegie Mellon (6-2, 5-2 PAC) in Pittsburgh at 2 p.m.