Football smashes W & L in last game

The Carnegie Mellon defense forced six Washington & Lee turnovers, and the running back tandem of seniors Robert Gimson and Travis Sivek propelled the football team to a 39–21 victory on senior day at Gesling Stadium. The Tartans finish the regular season at 6–4, courtesy of their current four-game winning streak, and now await news today of a possible ECAC bowl game.

“Defensively, we wanted to stop the run and force them to throw the ball,” senior defensive nose guard Mike Reggie said. “As the game went on, they made some adjustments and we missed some tackles that let them stay in the game — and, as a defense, missed tackles will always hurt you. Once our offense put up some points and they started getting into desperation mode with passing, we knew we could handle them, especially after we had put their starting quarterback out of the game early in the first quarter.”

With 8:46 remaining in the first quarter, the Tartans struck first on a 3-yard Gimson run, capping off an eight-play drive (all runs) that started because of an interception by senior linebacker Dan Shamash that he returned 12 yards to the W & L 31. The Tartans failed on the extra point because of a bad snap.

W & L (6–3) used 12 plays to go 70 yards and take the lead in the middle of the second quarter. Quarterback Patrick Rouse completed a 26-yard pass to Jack Martin in the end zone to put the Generals up 7–6.

Carnegie Mellon fired back with a quick touchdown drive, marching 65 yards in seven plays to take the lead back for good at 12–7. Gimson notched his second touchdown run of the day, this time from 4 yards out.

The Tartans added to their 12–7 halftime lead with a 25-yard field goal from junior kicker Colin Marks with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter. Junior cornerback Steve McGovern ended the next W & L drive by intercepting Rouse and returning the ball 26 yards to the W & L 8-yard line.

Sophomore quarterback Phil Pantalone converted the Generals’ miscue into points with his 4-yard touchdown run, putting the Tartans up 22–7.

“Turnovers always play a big part in any game,” Reggie said. “Chances are, if you can force more takeaways than you give up, you’ll win. It was great seeing Dan Shamash getting a pick on senior day and it’s always exciting when Steve McGovern picks one, because he always has potential to take it to the house even if he didn’t yesterday.”
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tartans forced another turnover as sophomore safety Josh Kresge stripped the ball from W & L’s Stuart Sitterson and Tartan junior defensive lineman Clay Crites pounced on it. Sivek found the end zone for the first time on the day, rushing the ball in from 1 yard out.

W & L stormed back with two touchdown drives to narrow their deficit to 29–21 at the 14:47 mark of the fourth quarter. With it now only a one-possession game, the Tartans did what they do best: They ran the ball down the throat of W & L, using up over eight minutes of game clock before Marks nailed a 27-yard field goal to make the score 32–21 in favor of Carnegie Mellon.

W & L turned the ball over on downs on their next possession and Carnegie Mellon scored one more time. Gimson scampered 35 yards on a running play to collect his third touchdown of the game and to put the game out of the reach of the Generals.

Gimson and Sivek both eclipsed the 1000-yard mark for the second year in a row in the game. Gimson rushed for 161 yards to give him 1007 on the season. Sivek barreled his way for 134 yards, giving him 1033 on the year and 4101 career rushing yards. Sivek’s touchdown moves him into 18th place on the NCAA Division III scoring list with 354 points in his career. Pantalone played well, completing five of his eight passes for 85 yards.

Defensively, senior safety Jon Scholl and junior linebacker Dan Falkenstein led the charge with nine tackles apiece. Crites and McGovern chipped in with seven tackles each.
The Tartan football team responded to their four-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak to finish the season over .500.

“For the defense, it started after the Randolph-Macon game when coach Bodnar, during films, simply asked certain players before each play if they did their job,” Reggie said. “It forced us to acknowledge and own up to our mistakes. Then he told us we would end up being the first team in 30-some years to have a losing season, which was a real wake-up call. The seniors were not about to allow that to happen on our watch. Really, it came down to the seniors refusing to go from the best team in school history to being the worst in 30-some-odd years.”