Football runs over Hiram and Grove City to start season 2-0

Last weekend the Carnegie Mellon Tartan football team trounced the Hiram College Terriers 45?0 to win their season opener. This week however, their victory would be hard-earned. On Saturday the Tartans narrowly defeated the Wolverines of Grove City College 20?16.

While the Tartans were ranked second in the 2005 University Athletic Association (UAA) preseason coaches poll, you would not have been able to guess this from their first-half play.

At halftime the Tartans trailed the Wolverines by ten, 13?3. The Tartans? offense had been relatively lackluster and ineffective. At the end of the first quarter, the Tartans had lost 11 yards on 12 rushes thanks largely to a costly fumble that lost 19 yards. Their production, however, began to pick up in the second quarter. Junior kicker Nathaniel Greenstein accounted for the Tartans? only points in the period, kicking a 23-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

While the offense was unproductive, the defense played well, especially when the Wolverines got close to the goal line. The Tartan defense allowed only one Wolverine touchdown and twice forced
the Wolverines to kick field goals on fourth-and-goal situations. A decisive penalty late in the first quarter cost the Wolverines a touchdown, and perhaps the game, as a 15-yard touchdown run by halfback Ian Tobin was negated by a holding call.

In the second half, the Tartans began playing like a second-ranked team. Their offensive woes ceased in the second half as junior quarterback Kevin Mulkern replaced senior Jarrod Highberger and as the ground game began to gain consistency. The Tartans started the second half with a 15-play drive that covered 70 yards, including a 21-yard reception by junior wide receiver Mark Davis and a clutch third-down conversion by senior halfback Joe Hurley. The drive culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore fullback Travis Sivek and a successful point-after attempt by Greenstein.

Sivek carried the bulk of the Tartan offense, rushing for 125 yards ? including one run for 52 yards ? and two touchdowns on 27 carries. After being limited to only 21 yards on nine carries in the first half, Sivek had a spectacular second half, gaining rushing for over 100 yards and recording both of his touchdowns.

Mulkern showed that he had the ability both to run and to pass, rushing for 26 yards and completing five of his attempted ten passes for 88 yards. Mulkern?s production off the bench may produce a quarterback controversy, as he was more effective than the Tartans? starting quarterback, Highberger, who completed only two of his seven passes and threw an interception. Greenstein, who scored the first points for the Tartans, also kicked an 18-yard field goal with less then three minutes left in the game.

While Sivek was able to produce some much-needed offense, the Wolverines were hurt by the loss of their starting sophomore fullback Matt Weil, who rushed for a career-high 131 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries last Saturday. Weil had five carries for 22 yards before he left the game in the first quarter due to injury.

Unlike the offense, the Tartans? defense proved to be strong and consistent. The defense was led by junior safety Aaron Lewis with nine tackles. Senior linebackers Jamie Ploetzner and Tom Pfister contributed with eight and seven tackles respectively. Ploetzner and junior linebacker James Rogers both recorded one sack. The special teams unit also forced a critical turnover on a kickoff return with less than five minutes left in the contest.

The Tartans? Week 2 struggles contrast with their success last week against Hiram College. Dominating both sides of the ball the Tartans were able to shut out Hiram. Offensively, Highberger passed for over 100 yards and one touchdown, a 43-yard reception by senior tight end Kosta Bourlas. Highberger also rushed for a touchdown. The Tartans? running game was also very effective: first-year fullback Ryan Phillips led the team with 53 yards, sophomore halfback Colby Whitman ran for two touchdowns, and Sivek and sophomore halfback Robert Gimson scored one touchdown apiece.

The Tartans will have the chance to move to 3?0 on the season Saturday when they face Johns Hopkins University at Gesling Stadium. Kickoff will be at 1 pm.