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When Case’s running back Greg Meyer broke through the Chicago defense for a 59-yard touchdown dash that put the Spartans up 14 with 1:42 left in the fourth quarter, it just didn’t seem fair.
The Maroons (4–4, 0–1 UAA) had gone blow-for-blow with ninth-ranked Case (8–0, 1–0) throughout Saturday’s game at Stagg, which was far closer than the Spartans’ 38–24 win looks on paper.
Third-year quarterback Marshall Oium had another strong day through the air, first-year wide receiver D Brizzolara continued his march toward Chicago’s single-season all-purpose yardage record, and the defense had two picks and three sacks on Joe Whalen, Case’s dual-threat quarterback. The Maroons’ performance had all the trappings of a season-making upset—all except the W by the final score.
“They made a couple big plays, and then we didn’t,” said head coach Dick Maloney.
Besides Meyer’s long run, which put Case up two scores and assured their win, the Spartans’ other difference-maker was a workmanlike, 47-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 24. After starting just inside Chicago territory, Meyer churned out a series of seven to 10 yard runs that the Maroon defense, which had forced punts and turnovers for much of the day, wasn’t able to stop. After Meyer got the ball to the Chicago four, Corey Checkan ran it the rest of the way, giving Case a 31–24 edge.
Just a few minutes later, the Maroons looked primed to knot the game again, after second-year Jake Longtin sacked Whalen on a third-down. Longtin’s play cut short Case’s drive and backed the Spartans up against their own goal line—Whalen narrowly avoided a safety—and the ensuing punt went only 37 yards.
A pass from Oium to fourth-year tight end Mike Emerson brought the ball back to the Case 26, but with Chicago almost in the red zone, the offense stalled out and turned the ball over on downs. Meyer’s 59-yard touchdown came on the following drive, and the game ended.
Case, with its 29-game regular season winning streak and 46 points-per-game scoring average, arrived in Hyde Park as the undisputed class of the UAA and favorites to beat the Maroons. With the recent success Chicago has had passing, the Case defense came out with seven or eight men back, hoping to stop deep threats like Brizzolara and third-year wide receiver Clay Wolff.
The Maroons still got their yards through the air, like on the 90-yard connection between Oium and Brizzolara that put the score at 17–14, Case’s advantage, midway through the second quarter.
“D ran a real nice route,” Maloney said. “That was just an unbelievable play, and Marshall put the ball right in there.”
Chicago’s defense was often impressive too. Second-year cornerback Emmett Carrier and second-year free safety Danny Polaneczky picked off Whalen in the second quarter, and it was Polaneczky’s that set up Oium and Brizzolara’s 90-yard strike. Carrier’s came with a minute left in the half, and the Maroons reached Case’s 28 before time expired. With a minute more, they might have turned Carrier’s pick into points.
“All in all, we played them very well,” defensive coordinator Kyle Sweeney said. “We had just a couple of breakdowns. I think we gave them their toughest game of the year. [Whalen] certainly had his lowest completion percentage day of the season.”
And then there was first-year kicker and punter Jeff Sauer who, with the wind whipping the UAA banners that line Stagg, twice buried the Spartans inside their own 10 on punts, and hit the fourth-quarter field goal that tied the game at 24.
“If anything, it’s a little bit of an indicator of our ability as a team,” Sweeney said. “To be tied in the middle of the fourth quarter gives you an indication of the potential and ability that we have.”
But as encouraging as the game often was, it’s not moral victories Chicago is after; it’s wins, unqualified and adjective-free, that they’re playing for, even when their opponent has the talent and cachet Case does.
“Seventy-five people—our players, coaches, and training staff—fully expected to be in the game. We expected to beat Case,” Maloney said. “We could’ve won the football game. It’s really disappointing; you only get one crack at them a year.”