CMU clipped by Thiel in triple overtime
Sophomore kicker Sammy Koyl has literally been the weak leg of the Thiel College football team all season. Coming into Saturday?s game, Koyl only converted three of seven field goal attempts. Yet, for most of the season, the undefeated Cats have not needed to rely on their kicker to win games. Saturday?s game against Carnegie Mellon in the Tartans? home finale was almost an exception.
With less than a minute left on the play clock and the score tied at 28, Thiel drove the length of the field to the CMU 15, setting up a 32-yard field goal attempt. After the Tartans burned three successive timeouts, Koyl, who had already missed two field goals, had a chance to end it; he missed inches left.
The Cats eventually pulled away in triple overtime, winning 50?48 on a diving catch by Brandon Chambers. The score, which came on a two-point conversion with the score tied, followed a failed conversion by the Tartans. On the Tartans? attempt, wide receiver Jon Kline caught a short pass across the middle and was dragged down just before the goal line. Thiel?s winning catch, on the other hand, appeared to hit the ground before being gathered in, but was ruled a score nonetheless.
?I thought from my angle we got across the line,? said standout running back Travis Sivek. ?That catch was definitely close too, but they were both tough calls.?
The Tartans opened the game by jumping on Thiel (10?0), pounding the ball to a 21?14 lead. They continued to rush the ball effectively throughout the entire game and finished with 148 net yards on the ground. When Thiel began to crowd the line, the Tartan quarterbacking tandem of Kevin Mulkern and Jarrod Highberger blitzed them deep; the pair finished with 191 total passing yards.
?They were small on defense,? said Sivek, who rushed for 81 yards. ?We thought we could run on them, especially since their corners were small, and then that let us start to throw it a little more for some balance.?
Still, it took until late in the first quarter for the Tartans? offense to get on track. Senior quarterback
Highberger started the scoring when he connected with first-year tight end Derek Wisnieki for a
23-yard touchdown, giving the Tartans (5?5) a 7?0 lead after a successful point by junior kicker Nate Greenstein. The touchdown was set up by junior defensive back Jonathan Menhart, who recovered a Thiel fumble near midfield.
After the first score, both teams erupted offensively, moving the ball and scoring with ease. In fact, the greatest setback to both offenses was not the opposing defenses, but rather a string of penalties, fumbles, and errant passes that marred the game. Carnegie Mellon alone was penalized six times for 39 yards and lost two fumbles, including one that led to a Thiel touchdown at the end of the first quarter.
Ultimately, the game was not typical for the Tartans on either side of the ball. Used to facing running offenses, Thiel worked primarily through the air. CMU?s lack of experience against the pass was especially evident in the red zone, and Thiel scored six of their seven touchdowns via the pass.
The Tartan offense, though, was unusually potent, and managed to match the Cats? significant production. The Tartans kept several drives alive with long third down throws, and also managed to get it in the end zone in the air, finishing with four receiving touchdowns. In addition, Sivek also ran the ball in for three touchdowns to make up for his below-average rushing total.
This success came despite losing starting quarterback Jarrod Highberger in the third quarter to injury. Highberger was replaced by junior Kevin Mulkern who proved to be just as effective, completing seven of 11 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the loss was disheartening, it did not sour the season for head coach Richard Lackner, who managed to secure the school?s 31st consecutive non-losing season with a young and inexperienced group.
?It?s a sad day because this is the last time a lot of these guys will be putting on this uniform,? said Lackner. ?But it?s also very gratifying. We have had great effort all year; I have no complaints.?