Witt, Erra-Hernandez spearhead first victory for Tartans
Despite a sloppy beginning, the Carnegie Mellon football team was able to bounce back and defeat Allegheny College 26–7 in its home opener.
After a sluggish first quarter during which senior wide receiver Tim Swanson fumbled and senior quarterback Rob Kalkstein threw a red-zone interception, the Tartans got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter.
The Tartans’ scoring drive started at their 49-yard line with 12:49 remaining in the second quarter. On the first play, senior fullback Zachary Erra-Hernandez broke away for a fantastic 26-yard run. After a crucial 1-yard run by Rob Kalkstein on fourth-and-one, Erra-Hernandez capped the drive off with a 1-yard plunge, giving the Tartans a 7–0 lead.
The stout Tartan defense, led by seniors Jack Butler, Dallas Hartman, and Akwasi Brefo, kept the Gators off the scoreboard until a bizarre play at the end of the half.
The Gators started at their own 38-yard line with 37 seconds left in the half. After a 20-yard pass from quarterback Jon Nigro to wide receiver Andrew Niklaus and a 3-yard rush by Nick Diechler, the Gators had a chance for one final play with four seconds remaining.
Even though he was nearly sacked, Nigro scrambled out of the pocket and threw a Hail Mary pass into the end zone, where it was caught by Niklaus to tie the game 7–7 at halftime.
The play had the potential to change the momentum of the game, but the Tartans never let that happen.
In the second half, they exploded with 19 more points and shut down the Gator offense.
“You just have to have a short memory in all sports, especially football. You never know, you can get a three-and-out, and come right back and score,” said Hartman. “Our offense was really good last year and we knew that they would stop turning over the ball eventually.”
The second half was led by Troy Witt. The sophomore running back rushed for two touchdowns, giving the Tartans a comfortable lead.
Witt made good use of the sidelines, most notably on a 13-yard touchdown run that gave the Tartans a 13–7 lead with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“I got a few TDs, but that was all the linemen,” Witt said. “They open it for me and I am going to hit the holes and put it in the end zone.”
Erra-Hernandez was excellent up the middle, gaining a well-earned 89 yards rushing on 19 carries to go along with his second-quarter touchdown. The one-two punch of Witt and Erra-Hernandez gave the Gator defense all sorts of fits. Witt gained 103 yards rushing on 16 carries.
The Tartan football team next plays at Catholic College this Friday. Their next home game is homecoming on Sept. 28 against Geneva College.