Football stumbles at home
The Tartans are off to an uneven start this season. Coming off of a 44-0 victory over Hiram, the Tartans lost to Grove City 16-14 this Saturday in their first home game of the year.
In the Hiram game, the Tartans were dominant with 380 total yards on offense and only one turnover. Their defense held Hiram to only nine first downs over the entire game. The Tartans took a dominating 17-0 lead into halftime following a touchdown run by architecture junior Jon Cakert, a touchdown reception by mechanical engineering sophomore Mark Davis, and a field goal by mechanical engineering sophomore Neil Stegall. ECE junior Joseph Hurley's two rushing touchdowns in the second half won him the award for UAA offensive player of the week. On defense, business administration junior Thomas Pfister had a team-high ten tackles.
Coming off such a decisive victory, the Tartans faced the Grove City Wolverines at home. The Wolverines were another team that had won an early rout: 54-14 over Manchester. While the Tartans were the more talented team on the field, a series of bad decisions and simple mistakes cost them victory.
The team looked its best in the first few series of the game. Kicking the ball to start, they held the Wolverines to a single yard before forcing a punt. Taking possession, the Tartans marched down the field and scored four minutes into the game on a four-yard run by Hurley. The Tartans found themselves with a 7-0 lead.
The Tartans' defense once again looked strong, with a number of athletic pass blocks keeping the Wolverines from scoring. A sack on fourth down gave the Tartans possession again. However, a fumble returned the ball to Grove City, in the first of six turnovers of the afternoon.
Afterwards, the Tartans struggled for the rest of the afternoon. After recovering the ball on their own four-yard line at the end of the first quarter, the Tartans were sacked for a safety, cutting the Tartans’ lead to 7-2. Receiving the free kick, the Wolverines pounded in for another score, converted the two-point try, and took a 10-7 lead.
The Tartans never regained the form they showed at the beginning of the game. A number of errors followed, including a muffed punt catch that led to Grove City scoring their second touchdown.
When the Tartans played smart football, they clearly demonstrated that they were the better of the two teams on the field. The defense against the pass was stellar all afternoon with a number of sacks and continuous pressure on the Grove City QB.
The Tartans' quarterback, senior business major Jarrod Highberger, kept the audience on its feet all afternoon, often scrambling 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, avoiding a number of tackles to result in positive gains. While he managed to get out of trouble most of the game, he made one mistake when he tried to get rid of the ball to avoid a sack, leading to an interception.
The Tartans made a late rally as the clock ran down in the fourth quarter. The offense fought to bring the ball into field goal position and set up a potential game-winning 49-yard field goal. Unfortunately, Stegall, the Tartan's kicker, was unable to hit the challenging shot and Grove City won the game.
The Tartans are facing significant changes this year. When Rochester dropped out of the UAA, Carnegie Mellon was left with three conference opponents: Case Western, Washington University, and University of Chicago. Furthermore, the Tartans have lost a number of impacting starters, such as Brad Stanley, who was named UAA offensive player of the year last year.
While the Tartans may be upset about their loss, there were a number of high points throughout the game. Defense was solid all day and offense flowed well during most of the series. If the Tartans are able to reduce their number of mistakes they could find themselves in the win column next week against Johns Hopkins.
The game against the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays will be challenging. The Tartans lost to the Blue Jays last year 21-0 and Johns Hopkins has won five consecutive games this year. Nonetheless, if The Tartans can tighten up their playing and make smart decisions, they should be able to give Johns Hopkins a run for its money. As head coach Rich Lackner put it, "We take each game one at a time."