The Academic Bowl is back at Carnegie Mellon. In front of a big Homecoming crowd on a warm October morning, Carnegie Mellon used a field goal as time expired to defeat the Case Western Spartans 23?20.
The win brings the Tartans? record to 4?4 overall and keeps the team in the hunt for a winning season record. More importantly, the victory brought the Academic Bowl Trophy, awarded to the winner of this rivalry game, back to the Carnegie Mellon campus.
The Spartans started the game strong, and it looked as though the Tartans would be sent to their third straight loss. Just four minutes into the game Case held a 6?0 lead thanks to a 39-yard touchdown pass. However, a missed extra point opened the door for Carnegie Mellon, who responded with a seven-minute drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown rush by sophomore running back Travis Sivek. Junior kicker Nathaniel Greenstein nailed the extra point to put the home team on top.
After a Spartan-missed field goal, Greenstein struck again to cap off a 70-yard drive, booting a 27-yard field goal to stretch their lead to 10?6. After exchanging possessions, the Tartans caught a break when sophomore Nat Scarmazzi picked off a Spartan pass to bring the offense back onto the field. However, this opportunity turned into a disaster three plays later, as first-year quarterback Doug Facemeyer?s pass was picked off by John Tiemeier, who returned it 44 yards for a Spartan touchdown. Trailing 13?10, the Tartan offense rode the strong running of Sivek down the field as Greenstein kicked his second field goal of the half to tie the game as time expired.
The third quarter of the game was a defensive battle marked by turnovers. A missed punt minutes into the period gave Case the ball at the Tartan 20-yard line. However, the Tartan defense, which had run into trouble last week in a 33?7 loss at Chicago, held tough. As the Spartans drove to the 13-yard line, Scarmazzi came up big again with a second interception, this time in the end zone, to end Case?s red?zone chances. This play set the tone for the rest of the third quarter, as neither team managed to score.
The scoring drought would end with the second drive in the fourth quarter. Facemeyer was intercepted for the second time, giving the Spartans possession at the Tartan 41-yard line. Five plays later they would find the end zone, using the deep pass again to burn the Carnegie Mellon defense with a 27-yard touchdown. A successful extra point put the visiting team ahead 20?13 with just nine minutes to play.
The Tartans responded with a clock?eating drive that would knot the score at 20?20. The team ripped off 15 straight runs, including 12 by Sivek, to march 75 yards. Sivek?s four-yard touchdown run tied the game with just 1:27 to play.
The CMU defense would step up to the challenge once more, as Mike Burnside?s sack on first down set the tone for the Case possession. After three plays and just 48 seconds, the Spartans were forced to punt.
Senior return?man Adam Bowland?s 19-yard return put the Tartans at midfield with 39 seconds to play. Sticking with what had been successful, the team continued to run the ball and use their timeouts wisely. Sivek ripped off an 18-yard carry to put the team in field-goal range, and after a series of timeouts as Case attempted to ?ice? Greenstein, the team lined up for what would be a career-long 41-yard attempt with just four seconds left on the clock. The kick sailed through the uprights as time expired to give the Tartans the win.
Sivek finished the day with a career best 196 yards on 31 carries. Facemeyer ended the day going 7 of 12 in passing attempts for 72 yards.
The game was great redemption for the Tartans, who lost to Johns Hopkins 9?6 earlier in the season on a last second kick.Ultimately, it was the officials and not the wind that cost the Tartans a chance to win that game. Two poor spots late in the game stymied the Tartans? shot for a comeback. Furthermore, the team was hurt by the absences of junior running back Joe Hurley and junior linebacker Thomas Pfister.
The Tartan defense still continued the high level of play which was evident in week two against Grove City, and the offensive unit showed that when not plagued by turnovers it was effective in moving the ball both on the ground and in the air.
The Tartans will face Bethany College next week, at Bethany. They can secure their 31st consecutive season with a .500 record by winning either against Bethnay or in their final game against Thiel College.