Tartan football team tramples the Tigers 50–26

Only the weather could slow down the Tartans Saturday night.

Playing under both the lights and rain (which forced a brief game delay due to lightning) for their week five matchup with Colorado College, Carnegie Mellon employed a patient and consistent offensive attack that carried the Tartans to a fifth straight victory.

“Our running game was very efficient tonight,” Tartans head coach Rich Lackner said about a ground attack that racked up 383 yards on 60 carries. “By running the football, you take more time off the clock against a team like this that is so aggressive offensively. [Offensive coordinator Rich Erdelyi] and the staff, they saw what was working, so why change it? And it worked well and we came out with a W.”

The offensive outpouring began from the opening whistle. After showcasing a much-improved passing attack in recent weeks, the Tartans returned to their trademark running game early against the Tigers. A seven-yard completion from senior quarterback Kevin Mulkern to sophomore tight end Derek Wisnieski on the first play from scrimmage was followed by eight consecutive rushes. The final carry on the 11-play, 69-yard drive came courtesy of junior running back Travis Sivek, who barreled into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown.

Colorado College answered the score with a lengthy touchdown drive of its own. Senior quarterback Chris Neal’s 12-yard strike to junior wide receiver Max Green evened the score.

The Tigers threatened to take the lead when, after forcing a Tartan punt, they drove down to Carnegie Mellon’s 26-yard line. But senior defensive back Aaron Lewis quickly ended Colorado College’s hopes of taking the lead by stepping in front of a Neal pass and returning his second interception of the season to the Carnegie Mellon 33.

As they have done all season, the Tartans capitalized on their opponent’s mistakes, converting turnovers into points. Another lengthy, methodical drive ensued, and when senior running back Robert Gimson plunged into the end zone for another one-yard score, the Tartans retook the lead, 14–7.

Again, Colorado College mounted an impressive string of plays in response to the deficit, driving to the 20-yard line. But the Tartans’ defense buckled down and forced the Tigers to attempt a 32-yard field goal, which was wide right.

“Their offense was the best offense we’ve faced by far,” said junior linebacker Jonathan Bodnar. “I think everybody just picked it up when we needed to.”

The offense then marched 80 yards on 12 plays on a drive that not only ended with a Mulkern two-yard touchdown run, but took nearly five minutes off the clock. The drive left only 37 seconds on the clock for the Tigers, who headed to the locker room trailing 21–7 at halftime

Once the third quarter began, the rainfall — which had been light throughout the first half — increased in intensity.
So too did the Tartans.

The defense forced a three-and-out and following a Tigers punt the offense took possession at their opponent’s 48-yard line. Over the next 12 snaps the Tartans ran the ball on each play, pounding out short yet productive gains that yielded consistent first downs. Gimson’s second touchdown of the evening, a four-yard dive through the heart of the Tigers’ defense, closed out the drive and gave the Tartans a 21-point edge.

Faced with a large deficit, the Tigers, who had averaged 38 points and 269 passing yards per game during their 2–1 start, looked to the air for points. Neal led Colorado College down the field for a quick strike to junior tight end Nolan Sweet to cut the Tartan lead in half to 28–14.

Carnegie Mellon countered the Tigers’ aerial offensive with another ground-based attack that re-established their three-touchdown lead. With the fourth quarter clock ticking to under 13 minutes, Gimson — who gained 119 yards — charged into the end zone for his third score to push the lead to 35–14 and effectively put the game out of the Tigers’ reach.

“Up front, they were just blocking great,” said Sivek, who led the Tartan backfield with 29 carries and 186 yards. “Whenever we can keep their defense on the field, and their offense off the field, it’s to our benefit as a team. We love doing that.”

Moments after Gimson’s dive, however, lightning forced a pause in the action as both teams headed inside to avoid the weather.
The 20-minute break did not seem to not affect the Tartan defense. Two plays after the delay, Bodnar snagged a deflected pass and returned it to the Colorado College 28 yard line. Sivek and the Tartans’ offense only needed two snaps to cover the remaining 28 yards and post their sixth score on the day.

The Tigers and Tartans (via a 13-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Doug Facemyer to first-year running back Greg Pitts) traded touchdowns on each team’s next offensive series. Colorado College grabbed another late score on a 10-yard run by Neal, but once the clock finally hit triple zeros, Carnegie Mellon prevailed 50–26. The 5–0 start gives the Tartans their first perfect first half of the season since 1990, the last time they went undefeated.

Carnegie Mellon receives a week off next Saturday due to a bye in their schedule. But the Tartans return to the field Saturday, October 14, to tangle with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.