No. 20/15 Spartans Fall to Carnegie Mellon in Academic Bowl

Zach Hall carries the ball for the Spartans against Bethany

In another iteration of the Academic Bowl that came down to the final snap of the game, the 20th/15th-ranked Case Western Reserve University Spartans fell just short to the Carnegie Mellon University Tartans, dropping a 24-21 decision at Gesling Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The loss put an end to the Spartans hopes for an undefeated regular season, as the team wrapped-up its 10-game slate with a 9-1 overall record.  However, with an 8-1 mark in conference play, CWRU finished a game ahead of Carnegie Mellon for the 2019 Presidents' Athletic Conference Championship, as will now turn their attention towards the NCAA Division III playoffs, which will begin next weekend.

CWRU will play its first round game next Saturday, November 23rd local time.  The first round opponent and location of the game, along with the rest of the bracket, will be revealed on ncaa.com via a live selection show at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 17th.

Carnegie Mellon ended its regular season with an 8-2 overall record and a 7-2 mark in league play.  This was the fourth-straight year that the Academic Bowl (which was played for the 34th time on Saturday) has been decided on the game's final play.

Junior wide receiver Colt Morgan caught 11 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown, taking sole possession of the program's career record with 32 touchdown receptions.  He also surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the season during the game, becoming just the second player in program history with two seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards. 

Sophomore quarterback Drew Saxton completed 27-of-49 passes for 273 yards, and also threw touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Mario Robaina and junior wide receiver Chase Witte.  Robaina finished the contest with eight catches for 93 yards.

Junior running back Zach Hall registered the second 100-yard rushing game of his career, carrying the ball 21 times for 122 yards, and surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for his career in the process.

The Spartans' defense finished the game with five sacks, including 1.5 for senior defensive lineman Andrew Lease, and one for senior defensive end Cameron Brown, increasing his program career-record to 34.5.

CWRU's offense outgained the Tartans 399 to 147 on Saturday, but the Spartans were ultimately done in by four costly turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter.

Case Western Reserve fell into an early hole in the game, with a 49-yard field goal by Brandon Nguyen and an 11-yard touchdown pass from JD Dayhuff to Quinn Murray giving the Tartans a 10-0 advantage by the end of the opening quarter.  Carnegie Mellon maintained its 10-point lead until the closing seconds of the first half.  The Spartans forced the Tartans to punt from out of their own end zone, taking possession of the ball at the CMU 34-yard line with 29 seconds to go.  Saxton would connect with Witte twice during the ensuing drive, once on a 24 yard pass and again on a five-yard touchdown pass, as CWRU needed just 19 seconds to trim the lead to 10-7 heading into halftime.

The Spartans would force a three-and-out on Carnegie Mellon's first drive of the second half.  Hall ran for 37 yards on the ensuing drive, and then Saxton would connect with Morgan for a 32-yard touchdown to give the Spartans their first lead of the day, 14-10.

Carnegie Mellon regained the lead on a touchdown with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter, and then extended their lead to 24-14 on a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown on the Spartans' next drive.  The Spartans saw a drive that started on their own one yard line go 70 yards over nine and a half minutes stretching into the fourth quarter, but ultimately came up without points after a missed 46-yard field goal.  CWRU would force a three-and-out on the next CMU drive, and then pull closer on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Saxton to Robaina, trimming the Tartans' lead to 24-21 with 5:23 to play in the game.

The Spartans would have one final chance to knot the score.  CWRU took possession at its own 35 yard line with 47 seconds to play in the game.  Saxton quickly moved the team down the field, with four completions for 35 yards, and a four-yard run by sophomore Donald Day III to convert a fourth-and-one put the team on the Tartans' 26 yard line with under 10 seconds remaining, setting up a final field goal to attempt to tie the game on the contest's final play.  However, the ensuing 43-yard attempt by sophomore Robertson Albrecht, while right down the center, hit off the crossbar and bounced away as time expired, giving the Tartans the win.

More information on the NCAA Selection Show will be posted to athletics.case.edu on Sunday afternoon.  Check back at the website for more information on the Spartans' first round opponent and game location after the bracket is announced.