Tartans will commemorate 50th Anniversary with win
“We treat every game like it’s the biggest game of the season,” said senior inside linebacker, mechanical engineering major, and co-captain Stanley Bikulege.
As the Carnegie Mellon football team prepares for their last game of the season against Case Western Reserve University, they made no change in routine. Although it would be expected that the decade-long rivalry between the two schools for both football and academics would strike a bit of intimidation into the hearts of the Tartans, the team believed the game was on par with any other.
“We really do the same thing week in and week out. There’s an old expression about having faceless opponents and despite the fact that this is a team that we’re rivals with and although it would seem externally that this would carry extra weight, we’re [going to] go about our preparation the same way,” said senior running back, business administration major, and co-captain Sam Benger.
Despite the team’s attempt to treat it as just another game, the game does hold more weight than usual. It will not only be the team’s last game of the regular season, but it could be their eighth win, a mark the Tartans have not accomplished since 2006.
“The fact that we haven’t won eight games during the regular season since 2006 [is significant]. You know, you’re always looking for motivation and reasons to win and that’s certainly a good reason to win this game. To have a winning percentage of 80 percent [is] something to strive for and just another reason to put forth our best effort,” said head coach Rich Lackner.
The game will have effects in both the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) and the University Athletic Association (UAA). In the PAC, Case Western currently ties with Washington & Jefferson for the lead while in the UAA, the game’s winner will take the title.
Among the many talented athletes who might make the difference for the Tartans, Benger stands as the most imposing figure for opposing defenses to face. Benger is the program’s all-time leading rusher, as he has run for 5,197 yards in 41 career games. Benger currently leads the team in rushing and ranks fifth in the PAC and tops the UAA with 864 yards on 140 carries for an average of 6.2 yards per touch. He has rushed for 58 touchdowns and has six receiving scores for 64 touchdowns in his career. Benger needs one more rushing score to become the school’s all-time leader. His yardage, along with his 58 rushing touchdowns and 865 carries, rank third on the PAC all-time list.
The game, which is to take place on Saturday, Nov. 11th at 2 p.m., will not only be played on the Tartans’ home turf, but is also the 32nd annual Academic Bowl and takes place during homecoming week and the 50th Anniversary. This, along with the fact that the preceding weekend did not have a game and allowed players to rest, gives the team an advantage.
“I don’t know if I’d call it a pressure but [instead] a better atmosphere: it gets more people here, it makes the game more exciting for us to play in. And having this week off really gets guys ready to get on the field again,” said Bikulege.
A win against Case Western would likely qualify the Tartans for a bowl game: an out of conference game at a neutral site. This would allow the team to play another game and get yet another win under their belt. Regardless of the long-term benefits, beating Case Western is their focus, as pride in the rivalry would demand no less.
“The preparation will be there. The enthusiasm will be there. The excitement will be there. It’s just a question of discipline and turnovers and efficiency. The team that outplays the other will win the game,” said Lackner.