CHICAGO, Ill. -- The University of Chicago football team faced plenty of adversity over the final three minutes of Saturday's game. Carnegie Mellon University was rallying hard - scoring a touchdown, recovering the ensuing onside kick and converting twice on fourth down. But the Maroons held on when it counted and defeated the Tartans 14-12 in a wild finish.
The Maroons improved to 6-3 overall and 1-1 in the UAA. The Tartans (3-6 overall, 0-2 UAA) lost their fourth-straight game.
Prior to the start of the game, UChicago officially recognized its 17 seniors with a ceremony on the field. The outgoing senior class won the 2010 UAA Championship and has compiled a record of 23-16.
Turnovers proved to be the story of the day. Carnegie Mellon outgained UChicago 357-177 in total offense. But the visitors coughed up the ball five times in the game, with three interceptions and two fumbles. Two of the turnovers led directly to all 14 of the home team's points.
The Maroons kept up their ball-hogging ways in the first quarter, holding the ball for 12 of the first 15 minutes. But turnovers forced by the defense and special teams ultimately helped UChicago get on the scoreboard. Sophomore defensive back Greg Thome picked off his fourth pass of the year near midfield to put the offense in good position. The Maroons appeared to go three-and-out, but a botched snap on a fourth-down punt ended up helping as senior quarterback Vincent Cortina scrambled away from the charging defenders and ran up the left side for 15 yards and a first down. Four plays later, Cortina found sophomore defensive back Vincent Beltrano open in the left flat and Beltrano zipped up the sideline for a 23-yard touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff also went the home team's way. The returner mishandled the ball and sophomore defensive back Ben Clark pounced on it to put UChicago on CMU's 17-yard line. A pass interference penalty on fourth down gave the Maroons new life and Cortina tossed a five-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Colin Macri.
UChicago held a 14-0 lead, but only held onto the ball for about 11 minutes over the course of the second and third quarters. Carnegie Mellon effectively used misdirection with its run-heavy offense to consistently get first downs, which resulted in consecutive drives that ate up 16 minutes of clock. The Tartans drew within 14-6 with a 15-play, 73-yard drive to open the third quarter. The score came on an eight-yard run by Ryan Quinn.
Carnegie Mellon hung close and did not allow a UChicago first down for the entire fourth quarter. A 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:39 remaining got the Tartans to within two points. But the two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete in the end zone.
Carnegie Mellon then successfully pulled off an onside kick to get the ball back. On the first offensive play of the drive, UChicago defensive end Brandon Bolock and Clark combined to sack the quarterback for a loss of 14 yards. Consecutive penalties pinned the Tartans on their own 19-yard line, staring at fourth down and 36 yards to go. However, quarterback Rob Kalkstein heaved the ball up for grabs and wide receiver Graham Schilling came down with the reception just past the sticks for a first down.
The Tartans converted another fourth down a few plays later to reach the UChicago 32-yard line. But the Maroons held firm as Bolock and junior defensive tackle Scott Mainquist recorded an eight-yard sack to push the visitors back. A blitz by Clark forced an errant throw on 4th-and-18 and UChicago ran out the clock on the next play to win the game.
The Maroons ran for 120 yards (3.1 yards per carry) and passed for 57 yards in the game. Cortina completed 6 of 18 passes with two touchdowns and 27 yards rushing. Senior running back Ian Gaines rushed for 55 yards on 15 carries. Carnegie Mellon ended up rushing for 175 yards and throwing for 182 yards.
Beltrano was a big difference maker on the defensive side of the ball as well. The cornerback collected two interceptions, forced and recovered a fumble, and finished with six tackles. Senior linebacker Ben Wade led the team with 15 tackles and junior linebacker Schuyler Montefalco added 14 tackles. Clark also blocked a punt in the fourth quarter. As a unit, the Maroons defense has totaled 14 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries and seven blocked kicks in nine games this year.