Football drops 21–17 decision in home opener

Two yards and one shove: that was the difference for the Carnegie Mellon football team on Saturday. The Tartans fell to Hobart College during their home opener at Gesling Stadium by a score of 21–16. The Carnegie Mellon record now stands at 1–2, while the Hobart Statesmen remain undefeated at 2-0.

After a first half that can best be described as sloppy, including five total turnovers by both teams, the Tartans found themselves in a 7–7 deadlock. The Statesmen struck first in the second half, when senior tight end Matt Duliba caught a 5-yard pass from quarterback Rich Doyle for a 14–7 lead with less than a minute left in the third quarter.

The Tartans wasted no time in equalizing the score. On the ensuing drive, sophomore Anthony Ruzga punched the football into the end zone from 2 yards out. The touchdown run capped off a seven-play, 61-yard drive that ate roughly three minutes off the clock. With just over 12 minutes to play in the game and the score tied, the Tartans looked poised to steal their home opener away from the Statesmen. The unusually large crowd at Gesling Stadium stood with bated breath as the Carnegie Mellon defense took the field, a few big plays away from setting its offense up for the win.

That’s where the shove came.

The team exchanged possessions and Hobart was deep inside Tartan territory after Carnegie Mellon was forced to punt from inside of their own 10- yard line. On the Statesmen’s first play from scrimmage, Doyle dropped back to pass, felt pressure, and fired the ball toward the end zone and junior wide receiver Zach Shulz. There was definite contact between the wide out and the Tartan defensive back, with Shulz giving the slightest of shoves to gain separation. Shulz came down with the ball, the referee threw the penalty flag, but ruled it a defensive pass interference.

The touchdown stood, and the Tartans were in a 21–14 hole. Their next drive took them down inside of Hobart’s 10-yard line, but Carnegie Mellon failed to convert a critical fourth and two. Quarterback Phil Pantalone fired a pass into the end zone, but Hobart’s defensive back made an excellent play, batting the ball down before the Carnegie Mellon receiver could secure it.

After the turnover on downs, the Statesmen simply ran the clock down, taking a safety and punting away with less than 10 seconds left in the game. A last gasp Hail Mary play ended with more of a whimper than a bang, with Pantalone taking contact and flipping the ball a couple of yards while the clock ran out. Incomplete pass. Game over.

Carnegie Mellon faces off against Hiram College Saturday at Gesling Stadium, where they will be working to even their record with the victory. Gametime is set for 1 p.m.