Tartan football thrashes Franklin & Marshall

When Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) gained momentum late in the first half — heading into halftime trailing by only a touchdown — the Tartans knew they needed a strong second half to improve to 4–0. Carnegie Mellon got just that, shutting the Diplomats out in the final 30 minutes on the way to pulling away with a 34–14 victory on Saturday afternoon at Gesling Stadium.

A quartet of big plays highlighted the scoring in the first quarter. Senior quarterback Kevin Mulkern completed six of 11 passes for 205 yards and gave the Tartans an early lead thanks to long touchdown passes to sophomore tight end Derek Wisnieski and junior wide receiver Jeremy Doo in the first quarter.
Wisnieski’s 77-yard touchdown reception got the Tartans on the board, and Doo’s 54-yard touchdown catch and run increased Carnegie Mellon’s lead to 14 with 5:55 remaining in the opening quarter.

“Last week we had the same play and I dropped the ball,” said Wisnieski, who caught four passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns on the day. “The coaches said they were going to give it another chance and it came open for us. I was really happy we got that score real quick and got up big.”

F&M answered with a big play of its own to cut the lead to 14–7, but Tartan junior running back Robert Gimson showed how dangerous the Tartan offense is with his career-high 58-yard touchdown scamper to conclude the scoring in the first quarter. Gimson finished with 74 yards on 12 carries.

Things got interesting late in the first half after F&M’s 20-play, 99-yard scoring drive cut the Tartan lead to 21–14 with 2:09 remaining in the second quarter. A fourth-down roughing-the-punter penalty kept the drive alive for the Diplomats, who then went on to convert two fourth-down opportunities, the latter being a 20-yard touchdown pass.

The Tartans set up their two-minute drill, hoping to increase their lead going into halftime, but senior kicker Nathaniel Greenstein’s 33-yard field goal attempt was blocked as the half ended.

The Diplomats were forced to punt on their opening possession of the second half, and the Tartans began to pull away from F&M. Carnegie Mellon lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt, but after receiving the snap, holder Jonathan Kline handed the ball off to senior running back Jon Cakert, who then set up and passed to a wide open Wisnieski for a 24-yard scoring strike.

“I was a little nervous. Wisnieski got out a little late, but he got open so I lofted it up and he ran under it. He made it easy for me,” said Cakert. “We work on it in practice a couple times a week; it’s a fun play.”

After allowing points in the first half for the first time this season, the Tartan defense was able to settle in and shut out the high-powered Diplomat offense in the second half. Senior cornerback Jonathan Scholl led the Tartan defense with 14 tackles. Senior cornerback Nat Scarmazzi added 11 in the win.

“On their 99-yard drive, we had a lot of chances to stop them and the third- and fourth-down conversions came up better for them, but we took that as motivation for the second half to come out and hold them scoreless,” Scholl said.

The Tartans finished with 473 yards of total offense, compared to F&M’s 329. Out of those 473 yards, 253 were from the passing game, while the remaining 220 were on the ground. Junior fullback Travis Sivek eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau for the third time this season, gaining 107 yards and a late touchdown on 20 carries.

“Our offense was just awesome today; they did some great things,” said head coach Rich Lackner. “I think it’s a question of confidence. We have a lot of confidence in our passing game this year and rightfully so. Kevin has made good decisions; our kids have caught the ball well. It doesn’t matter what level of football, football coaches are always talking about balance. This loosens up the secondary and gets the running game going and vice versa. You have to have the ability to keep that defense off guard, and we did that today.”

Wisniewski added, “It’s a great feeling to be 4–0. We still have a long way to go, and still have some tough teams on the schedule, so right now we’re focusing on Colorado College next weekend.”

The Tartans will put their perfect record on the line next week with a home game against Colorado College on Saturday at 7 p.m.