Tartan football dominates Westminster 33–6

This week it took them almost a quarter, but once the Tartans got rolling they put together their third-straight dominant performance to move to 3–0 on the season.

In their home opener, the Carnegie Mellon football team deployed their powerful run game and a tough defense to defeat the Westminster Titans 33–6 on Saturday afternoon.

After an early turnover on the first offensive series and then being stopped on a fourth-and-goal from the Westminster one-yard line later,
the Tartans began a scoring explosion that effectively ended the game by halftime.

Immediately following the turnover on downs, on the second play of the second quarter, senior linebacker Jaime Ploetzner wrapped up Westminster running back Nick McKolosky in the end zone for a safety.

Senior quarterback Kevin Mulkern gave the Tartans their first touchdown of the afternoon when he rolled out of the pocket and hit senior wide receiver Jonathon Kline for a 13-yard touchdown. The five-play, 41-yard scoring drive pushed the Tartans’ lead to 9–0.

Less than a minute later, Carnegie Mellon lit up the scoreboard with another big play. Senior defensive back Aaron Lewis picked off a Westminster pass and returned the interception 20 yards for six more points. Lewis’ 11th career interception and first career touchdown extended the Tartans’ advantage to 16–0.

“The defense we were in allowed me to cheat a little and break on the ball,” said Lewis, who also recorded a pass break-up and six tackles. “The ball was thrown low and it kind of popped up a little bit and it wasn’t that far to run, so I got in there before they could catch up to me. But we were in the perfect situation; it was well-covered and one of those opportunities where if it pops up you gotta make a play.”
On the next two series, the defense limited Westminster to a three-and-out and forced a fumble to give the ball back to the offense. Senior kicker Nat Greenstein added a 36-yard field goal to increase the Tartans’ lead to 19 points with 3:47 remaining in the second quarter.

A third three-and-out by the Carnegie Mellon defense returned the ball to the offense with just under two minutes remaining in the half. Three rushes and a 27-yard completion later, Mulkern dropped back on third-and-five and found Derek Wisnieski crossing the middle of the field. The sophomore tight end strolled into the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass. The score capped a 26-point second quarter for the Tartans, who held the ball for over 18 minutes in the first half.

“Everything starts up front,” said Mulkern, who, in addition to rushing for 25 yards and a touchdown on five carries completed seven of 11 passes for 130 yards. “Those guys have done a great job of pass protecting all year and it has really opened up our passing game.”
The Tartans opened up the second half by forcing a Westminster punt, paving the way for another Tartan scoring drive. Mulkern added a third touchdown when the senior ran untouched into the end zone to cap a 13-play, 81-yard drive that ate 6:20 off the clock.

The fourth quarter saw the possibility of a Tartan shutout end when Westminster scored a rushing touchdown to narrow the lead to 33–6, but it proved to be one of only a few blemishes on the day.

The Tartans ran out the final five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter to secure their third straight victory.

“What I told the kids was, it has been a good while since we’ve been 3–0,” head coach Rich Lackner said. “It’s good to be 3–0. The kids are playing their hearts out right now, and they’re giving us great effort both in practice and on the field on Saturday afternoons. I’m very pleased with the effort and the focus of this football team.”

Although the passing game produced two touchdowns and over 100 yards of offense, Carnegie Mellon racked up impressive numbers on the ground. Junior running back Robert Gimson carried the ball 13 times for 111 yards as the offensive line produced over 300 yards on the ground for a second straight week.

“It’s exciting, not only to have 300 yards rushing but to have a passing attack,” said senior guard J.P. White. “I think we have much more of a balanced attack. We knew going in against Grove City [last week] that we would have to throw the ball more, and I think we just followed that scheme into this week and everybody’s happy with the results.”

The defense produced equally impressive results. In addition to posting two scores of their own, they held Westminster to 180 yards of total offense, forcing six punts and two turnovers.

“I think the defense has taken on the personality of the captains and the seniors on that side of the ball,” Lackner added. “I think that Aaron Lewis and Jaime Ploetzner and [James Rogers] ... set the tone for this football season in camp. I think they set the tone at practice; I think they set the tone during the games.”

The Carnegie Mellon football team will look to add to its streak next week with a second consecutive home date. Franklin and Marshall College enters Gesling Stadium next Saturday at 1 p.m., putting their 1–1 record on the line against the Tartans.