Football emerges unscathed over visiting Thomas More

Junior quarterback Alex Cline scans the field for an uncovered receiver. (credit: Courtesy of CMU Athletics) Junior quarterback Alex Cline scans the field for an uncovered receiver. (credit: Courtesy of CMU Athletics)

The football team faced off against the Thomas More College Saints at home on Saturday. The Tartans forced four turnovers and scored five touchdowns in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) showdown, claiming a 37–17 victory to stay undefeated in the season at 4–0 and 2–0 in PAC play.

From the start of the first quarter, Carnegie Mellon established the tone of the game on both sides of the ball. On the first play from scrimmage, the Tartans defense forced and recovered a Thomas More fumble. Starting the drive deep in Saints territory, junior quarterback Alex Cline only needed two plays to reach the end zone, throwing a 10-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Jamie Greenwell. The score now 7–0, Thomas More’s next series was more successful, driving all the way to the Carnegie Mellon 2-yard line, but the Tartans defense came away from another fumble recovery to stop it. Later in the first quarter, a 53-yard punt return from sophomore running back Willie Richter set the Tartans up at the Saints’ 1-yard line. On 1st and Goal, senior running back Sam Benger rushed for the touchdown, making the score 14–0.

After a Saints three-and-out, the Tartans offense put together another successful drive ending with the third touchdown of the first quarter, this time a 5-yard toss from Cline to senior wide receiver John Prather. The quarter ended with the Tartans leading 21–0.

The second quarter started off slower than the first; the only points were scored with 1:26 left to play in the half. The Saints’ defense managed to contain the Tartans’ offense that made strong plays in the previous quarter. The Tartans’ defense, however, continued its dominant play, forcing another fumble in its own territory, recovering the ball in the end zone. The turnover stopped a 10-play, 96-yard drive by the Saints’ offense that ate up 4:33. However, on their next drive, the Saints put together another long drive that resulted in a field goal, putting points on the board for the visiting team. Though they were scoreless in the second quarter, the Tartans led at the half, 21–3.

Carnegie Mellon came out of the half with aggressive play, quickly making their way to midfield. On 3rd-and-long, Cline scrambled through the Saints’ defensive front for a 56-yard rushing touchdown. The score increased the Cardinal and Gray lead to 28–3. Not to be outplayed, the Tartans defense stalled the Saints to another three-and-out. The Tartans’ next series ended with Cline’s fourth touchdown, an 11-yard pass to Benger. The extra-point went wide right, keeping the score 34–3. On the ensuing drive, Thomas More scored their first touchdown of the game with a long play from just past midfield, chipping away the Carnegie Mellon lead to 34–10. The Tartans answered with a field goal, ending the third quarter with the score 37–10.

Similar to the second quarter, the fourth quarter remained scoreless for most of the period. The Tartans defense tallied its fourth turnover of the game with an interception from senior safety Jacob Johnson. A late Thomas More touchdown closed the scoring of the game, which ended 37–17.
The Saints had 446 yards of total offense, more than the Tartans’ 362 yards. They also recorded more first downs (19 to the Tartans’ 14) and had much higher third down efficiency (58 percent to the Tartans’ 36 percent). However, the Saints’ four turnovers tipped the scales to the Tartans, who took advantage and put points on the board.

Cline finished with four touchdowns, completing 16-of-20 passes for 177 yards and 90 yards rushing with no interceptions. Prather had five catches for 114 yards, recording his seventh career 100-yard game and his second of the season. Prather also became Carnegie Mellon’s all-time career receptions leader with 152. Benger rushed for 51 yards from 12 carries and a touchdown, and added two catches for 11 yards and a second touchdown. Senior linebacker Stanley Bikulege led the Tartans defense with 10 total tackles, four of them solo.

The Tartans will travel to Bethany College to take on the Bison on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 2 p.m.