Football wins ECAC Southwest Bowl Game
Carnegie Mellon’s football team needed some fourth-quarter heroics en route to coming from behind and defeating the visiting Gettysburg College Bullets 21–20 in the ECAC Southwest Bowl on Saturday.
With the game on the line, sophomore quarterback Phil Pantalone completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Brendan Howe on fourth and goal with 2:09 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Carnegie Mellon up 21–20.
The Carnegie Mellon defense preserved the victory with one more stand after the ensuing kickoff. The Tartans finish the season at 7–4 while Gettysburg falls to 6–5.
Gettysburg took the opening kickoff and marched down the field mixing the run with a pass to score the game’s first touchdown.
Bullet running back Tom Sturges lunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down to make it 7–0.
Gettysburg tacked on a 24-yard field goal with 1:19 to go in the first quarter up 10–0. Their drive started at Carnegie Mellon’s own 28-yard line after senior safety Jon Scholl fumbled a punt.
“We had a plan to defend Gettysburg’s offense but we didn’t execute very well in the first half,” said junior defensive lineman Clay Crites. “Coach Bodnar got a little upset; it gave us some motivation and we went out the second half and started stopping them.”
Things got worse for the Tartans when Sturges rushed for his second touchdown, this time from 7 yards out, to put Gettysburg up 17–0 with 6:48 remaining before halftime.
Carnegie Mellon, needing to put points on the board, answered with a touchdown drive of nine plays and 66 yards, capped off by Pantalone throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Derek Wisnieski. Junior kicker Colin Marks’ extra point narrowed the deficit to 17–7, which is where it would stay going into halftime.
“At halftime our coaches came in and told us to pick it up, play like we had been playing in past weeks,” Howe said. “We came out flat in the first half, but we responded and that just goes to show our team character is one of the best.”
Neither team mustered any points in the third quarter, with Marks missing a 40-yard field goal wide left and a Pantalone pass getting tipped and intercepted after Carnegie Mellon had taken the ball down inside Gettysburg’s 10-yard line.
Gettysburg added a 20-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter on a drive started after Carnegie Mellon muffed another punt, going ahead 20–7 with 11:42 remaining in the game.
Things started clicking for Carnegie Mellon from this point forward. Carnegie Mellon opened up its offense and completed passes of 15, 13, and 24 yards as the team marched down the field. Pantalone kept the ball and ran it in from 5 yards out to bring the score to 20–14.
The Tartan defense stood tall and forced Gettysburg to go three and out and punt. The Tartans took over at their own 37-yard line with 7:13 to go. The first play of the drive saw senior fullback Travis Sivek break free for his longest run of the day, a 17-yard gainer, taking the ball into Gettysburg territory.
Carnegie Mellon proceeded to move the ball inside the Bullets’ 10-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown pass from Pantalone to Howe.
“It was a backside curl and I was just praying that he opened up, and luckily there was no one there,” Pantalone said. “I got so excited because he was so wide open — it wasn’t expected. Brendan Howe made a great catch and I couldn’t have had more time to throw. It was great.”
Gettysburg had one more chance to retake the lead, getting the ball after the ensuing kickoff. On the third down, Gettysburg quarterback Matt Flynn threw a deep pass that was broken up at the last second by Scholl.
On the fourth down, Carnegie Mellon brought the house, blitzing their linebackers and forcing Flynn out of the pocket and into throwing a desperation heave toward the sideline as he was hit by sophomore linebacker Alexsey Tigay. Flynn’s pass fell short of his intended receiver and the Tartans ran out the clock to seal their come-from-behind victory.
“The offense, you got to commend Gimson and Travis, Colby and our line, and Pantalone too,” Crites said. “They played their hearts out and they didn’t stop. That’s the biggest thing: They didn’t quit. It was a good game.”
“Coming into the game we knew that we would have to run the ball, and it didn’t work out as well as we hoped for, so we had to air it out a little bit,” Pantalone said. “The receivers made some great catches and we picked up blocking from the line. Especially in the second half, things were clicking. When we had the ball we did well with it, and then our defense in the second half just stepped up and shut them down. It was a complete team effort today.”
The Tartans amassed 373 yards of total offense over 37:06 minutes compared to Gettysburg’s 249 in 22:54. Pantalone was named MVP of the bowl game thanks to his career-high 140 yards passing, completing 12 of 14. He scored three touchdowns, two coming through the air.
Sivek collected 82 rushing yards, and senior running back Robert Gimson added 69. Howe was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 64 yards, and senior Jeremy Doo contributed four receptions for 52 yards. Sturges collected a game-high 114 rushing yards for Gettysburg. Crites’s 12 tackles led the Tartan defense, and senior linebacker Jonathan Bodnar contributed nine.
“Nobody quit,” Crites said. “Those four weeks when we lost four in a row, practice was a little gloomy, but people still went hard and people were still trying their best. That speaks volumes for the kids on this team. We’ve had a couple e-mails from alumni saying, ‘We’re proud of you guys for coming back.’ Kids on this team, they don’t like losing.”
“We lost a couple close games, and by the end, the last five games, everything clicked,” Pantalone said. “Offense and defense — we came out and we wanted to finish the season on a good note, and we did.”