Football breaks losing streak with two wins

The Carnegie Mellon football team snapped their four-game losing streak and kept their University Athletic Association (UAA) title hopes alive with two victories against UAA opponents.

The Tartans earned a 21–0 road victory over the University of Chicago Oct. 20 before returning home and defeating Washington (Mo.) University 18–13 this past Saturday, during Homecoming weekend. The wins propelled the Tartans to 4–4 overall and 2–1 in the UAA.

Against Chicago (3–4), the Tartans scored first early in the second quarter when senior running back Robert Gimson ran the ball in from 4 yards out. Clinging to the 7–0 lead early in the second half, the Tartans forced a Maroon turnover when junior cornerback Steve McGovern intercepted a pass. Senior fullback Travis Sivek’s 1-yard touchdown run allowed the Tartans to capitalize on the Chicago miscue, upping their lead to 14–0 midway through the third quarter.

The Tartans regained possession and marched down the field, scoring another touchdown at the end of the third quarter. Sivek’s second touchdown run of the game made the score 21–0 in favor of Carnegie Mellon.

The Tartan defense collected its first shutout of the season, thanks to its ability to shut down the Maroons’ running game and an ability to force five Chicago turnovers on the day.

Sivek and Gimson each eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark, as Gimson scampered for 113 yards and Sivek pounded out 111 on the ground. Senior linebacker Jonathan Bodnar and junior linebacker Jim Sands had six tackles apiece to lead the defense.

Against Wash. U. (6–2), it was the Tartan defense that collected the first points of the game. Junior defensive lineman Clay Crites and junior linebacker Dan Falkenstein sacked Bears quarterback Buck Smith in his own end zone for a safety.

Wash. U. responded with a touchdown to take the lead at 7–2 early in the second quarter. The score remained 7–2 heading into halftime.

“During halftime there were some adjustments that coach Bodnar made and there were some adjustments that coach Erdelyi made,” Tartan head coach Rich Lackner said. “We challenged our kids at halftime. We told them it would be a 60-minute game from the start.”

Carnegie Mellon came out strong in the second half. A one-yard touchdown run by Sivek gave the Tartans the lead at 8–7. The Tartans mixed things up a bit late in the third quarter, connecting on a long touchdown pass to increase their lead to 15–7. Sophomore quarterback Phil Pantalone faked the handoff and threw a deep pass to streaking senior wide receiver Jeremy Doo, who reeled the ball in for a 40-yard touchdown reception.

“We came into the game wanting to run a lot because we knew they play the pass really well,” Doo said. “We run the ball well so we started off with that, but when we saw an opportunity to pass we threw it.”

Bodnar made a big play on the defensive side of the ball, intercepting Smith to set up Carnegie Mellon’s final points of the game. The Tartans’ ensuing drive ended with a 20-yard field goal from junior kicker Colin Marks to make it 18–7 with 10:10 to play in regulation.

“I actually think the quarterback threw it to a guy behind me,” Bodnar said about his interception. “I just stopped and I was right there. Running the ball, tell you what — every time I see somebody near me, it’s two hands. I’m not going to lose it.”

Wash. U. made things interesting late in the fourth quarter by cutting the lead to 18–13 with 4:07 remaining. The Bears elected to kick off deep to the Tartans and try to force a punt instead of attempting an onside kick.

The Tartans ran out the clock by managing to get a couple of crucial first downs to prevent the Bears from getting an opportunity to retake the lead.

“I think our kids showed a lot of character offensively on that last drive getting those last two first downs to run out the clock,” Lackner said. “When they kicked off deep, they thought that they could stop us. Our offense took that as a challenge and they responded.”

Sivek again shouldered the workload for the Tartans, motoring for 122 yards on 36 carries. Defensively, the Tartans were led by senior linebacker Trent Sisson’s 10 tackles and senior safety Jon Scholl’s nine.

“We play Wash. U. so much [that] it’s definitely our biggest rivalry,” Bodnar said. “We tried to build off our first half. We knew if we came out and did our job in the second half they wouldn’t be able to move the ball.”

“This win over Wash. U. is huge,” Doo said. “We were down on ourselves, having four losses in a row. To come back, win a couple in a row, and get back on the winning side is really nice. It’s huge; we’re really happy about it.”

“It feels great right now,” Bodnar said. “We’re playing the way we should be playing.”

The Tartans will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to West Virginia to play the Bison of Bethany College at 1 p.m.