Carnegie Mellon on the board after 22–21 win in home opener
Despite struggling to move the ball offensively, Carnegie Mellon football came away with a 22–21 win Saturday over Geneva College in their home opener.
After an opening touchdown drive by Geneva left Carnegie Mellon looking up at the Golden Tornadoes, a combination of effective special teams and suffocating defense allowed Carnegie Mellon to put up 22 unanswered points, a deficit too large for Geneva’s comeback attempt to overcome.
The win was the first of Carnegie Mellon’s season, moving the team’s record for the year to 1–2.
The opening drive of the game did not yield auspicious beginnings for the Tartans. The opposing team successfully attacked the flats and put up consistent gains on catch-and-run plays.
Geneva marched quickly down the field and began the scoring when first-year quarterback Aaron Channing hit senior wide receiver Josh Guiser for a 15-yard touchdown. Carnegie Mellon did not respond well initially.
The Tartans’ first drive of the game stalled after just six plays and 17 yards, but first-year punter Tyler Kohman dropped a perfect punt within Geneva’s five-yard line, pinning them with their backs against the wall for their next possession. The drive got nowhere due to an impenetrable defense by Carnegie Mellon.
After a three-and-out, the Tartans took advantage of their excellent field position on an 18-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Andrew Hearon to senior wide receiver Tim Swanson.
Both teams struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the half, trading punts until the break.
After a quick three-and-out by Carnegie Mellon to start the second half, Geneva set up a drive on their own 43-yard line, looking to take advantage of the field position yielded by the Tartan’s failed possession of the ball.
Four plays into the drive, however, junior outside linebacker Nico Comsa got to Channing, forcing a fumble and setting up Carnegie Mellon’s own offense with excellent field position.
With some help in the form of two major penalties on Geneva for 28 yards, Hearon hit sophomore wide receiver Garrett Strobel with a surgically precise pass in the middle of the end zone, opening up a 13-7 lead early in the second half after the extra point attempt failed.
Both defenses continued to successfully prevent the offenses from putting together any threatening drives.
However, after a three-and-out deep in their own territory, Carnegie Mellon punted the ball to Geneva, setting up the Golden Tornadoes at midfield with a chance to score for the lead.
Geneva was putting together a strong drive, and had gotten the offense all the way into the end zone before a pass was tipped, setting up junior cornerback Vince Demarchi for an interception that he took to the house, giving Carnegie Mellon the first multi-score lead of the game.
After a failed two-point conversion attempt, Carnegie Mellon was up 19–7, and the game would not be within one possession again until Geneva scored and completed a meaningless two-point conversion with the game clock expired.
Carnegie Mellon’s defense and kick coverage was strong for most of the game, with the first and last drives outliers during an otherwise very impressive performance.
First-year safety Drew Fitzmorris and junior cornerback Ryan Aitken, in particular, were all over the field, each ending up with 12 total tackles, with one each in the backfield. Fitzmorris forced a fumble on special teams as well.
Swanson also had a very good home opener. He was Carnegie Mellon’s best weapon in the passing game, ending up with 50 yards on four receptions for a touchdown.
“It was great,” he said of notching a win on the home field after two losses of a combined 48 points to start the season. “It was a struggle the first two weeks, and now we’re able to come out on top. Our defense was able to propel us forward, and we were able to get the win.”
The win also comes on the heels of Swanson’s UAA Special Teams Athlete of the Week award win after his return of a blocked extra point for a defensive two-point conversion.
Carnegie Mellon football will look to continue their success at home as they follow their conference schedule and host Westminster on Saturday at 1 p.m.