Football: Tartans fall to Grove City

The Carnegie Mellon football team took on the Grove City College Wolverines on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Gesling Stadium. After a close battle for much of the game, the Wolverines pulled away late to take the victory, 31–21. The Tartans move to a 2–2 overall season record and a 1–2 record in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC).

The Tartans won the toss and deferred, so the Wolverines began with the ball. They opened on their own 35-yard line and leisurely made their way down the field. The Wolverines ran the ball for the first 13 plays, all the way to the Carnegie Mellon nine-yard line. After a defensive pass interference penalty by the Tartans on the Wolverines’ first and only pass play of the drive, the Wolverines ran the ball in for a touchdown. They ate up a total eight minutes off the clock and put the first points of the game on the board.

Trailing 7–0, the Tartans crossed midfield into Grove City territory in the following drive but were unable to convert on third down. The Wolverines continued to run their rush-heavy offensive strategy with success, holding the ball for the rest of the first quarter (and 12:52 of the 15 total minutes). On the first play of the second quarter, the Wolverines’ offense switched it up and threw from the Carnegie Mellon 45-yard line. The gamble paid off with another touchdown.

On the ensuing drive, the Tartans failed to respond. They controlled possession for over three minutes, but the drive was marred by a personal foul penalty in their own territory. The Tartans were unable to cross midfield before punting away. However, the Tartans’ defense responded, forcing the Wolverines to punt in the first three-and-out of the game, giving the ball back to the Tartans’ offense. With the ball back in Tartan hands, senior quarterback Alex Cline engineered an effective 2:34 drive, punctuated by a 38-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jamie Greenwell to cut the deficit to 14–7 with 7:31 left in the first half.

The Wolverines stuck with their rushing attack, but the Tartans’ defense adjusted to their run and shut it down. The Tartans gained possession with 3:21 remaining in the half. Sophomore running back Luke Bikulege completed an 8-play, 45-yard drive with a short, 1-yard run to tie the game with 24 seconds left before the half.

Coming out of halftime, the score was tied at 14–14. After the first three drives of the second half ended in punts, the Wolverines took the lead 21–14 late in the third quarter. The Tartans tied again at the start of the fourth quarter with a 1-yard run from Junior running back Chris Haas.

On the ensuing drive, the Wolverines pulled ahead again with a 46-yard field goal; then, the Wolverines forced a Tartan three-and-out to get the ball back. The offense matched the effort: a 22-yard rush to put the Wolverines up in Carnegie Mellon territory. This quickly led to a touchdown with 4:20 left in the game to put the Wolverines up by 10 at a score of 31–21. The Tartans tried to string together a few possessions to pull off the come-from-behind win, but their two final drives both ended in interceptions by the Wolverines’ secondary. The first came on the first play of the drive; the second, in the red zone on third down. The pass bounced off its intended receiver into the hands of a Wolverine defender and sealed the win for the Wolverines.

On offense, the Wolverines totaled 420 yards compared to the Tartans’ 345; 308 of the Wolverines’ yards came from the ground attack. On top of that, the Wolverines held possession for 36:53, while the Tartans had the ball for 23:07. Cline’s two interceptions given up late in the game also made a difference, as the Wolverines finished the game turnover-free. Cline finished 21-for-35 with 228 yards and a touchdown. Haas led the team’s running game with 55 yards on 29 attempts, while junior running back Willie Richter was the team’s top receiver with 98 yards through the air. Greenwell had 78 receiving yards, a career high.

Next week, the Tartans go back on the road on Oct. 6 to take on the Waynesburg University Yellow Jackets. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.