CHICAGO – Offensive outbursts by running back Chandler Carroll and wide receiver Dante Nepa allowed the University of Chicago football team to overcome four turnovers and defeat Millsaps College 35-16 on Saturday afternoon.
The Maroons (1-1 record) produced their biggest scoring output since Sept. 26, 2015 when they tallied 49 points versus Centre College. The Majors dropped to 1-2 on the season.
The turnover bug bit UChicago as the offense lost a pair of fumbles and were picked off twice. However, the Maroon defense came up with big stops when it mattered, thwarting two trips into the red zone and limiting Millsaps to a 27-percent conversion rate on third down (6 of 22).
The prime producers were Carroll and Nepa. The junior running back posted the third-most rushing yards of his career with 214 yards on 27 carries (7.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Nepa was a big target in the passing game and put up the best game of his young career. The freshman wideout scored three times on four catches, traversing 131 yards along the way.
In their home opener, the Maroons gave their fans something to cheer about on their first offensive series. A penalty on a punt return put UChicago onto the visiting 37-yard line to start out. Four plays later, senior quarterback Burke Moser connected with Nepa for a 12-yard touchdown pass less than four minutes into the game.
After a fumble recovery by junior defensive end Peter Casey in Millsaps territory, the Maroons struck hard and fast on the very next play. Carroll took a handoff going right, then squared up and fired a 40-yard strike to Nepa for another touchdown. The offensive momentum continued to roll from there. A 12-play, 68-yard drive concluded with a two-yard touchdown scamper by Moser to make the score 21-0 to start the second quarter.
UChicago's hurry-up offense sputtered in the second quarter and Millsaps eventually got onto the scoreboard. The Majors went 87 yards in eight plays and then ran the ball in from one yard out to pull within 21-7. The visitors almost scored again on their next drive, but senior cornerback Davis Bitton blocked the 22-yard field goal attempt in the final minute before halftime.
The third quarter turned against the hosts in surprising fashion. On their four offensive possessions, the Maroons coughed up the ball all four times with one interception, two fumbles after big gains and a fourth-down incompletion in the end zone. Millsaps sliced into the deficit with a 21-yard field goal early to make it 21-10. Then a forced fumble after a 22-yard run staked the Majors onto the home 38-yard line. UChicago looked to turn the tide with an interception that was run all the way back for a presumed touchdown, but a roughing-the-passer penalty negated the pick and kept the visitors moving forward. After getting to the one-yard line, Millsaps was thwarted twice, including a two-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal run. Sophomore defensive end Michael McGinley and freshman linebacker Zachary Atiyeh came up with the tandem tackle to keep Millsaps out of the end zone.
The fourth-down stop brought UChicago back to life and the energy translated into an 8-play, 97-yard scoring drive. A 22-yard reception on third down by Carroll kept the chains moving to near midfield. Nepa missed a pass on second down, but he quickly made up for it on the following play. Moser flung a quick strike to Nepa and the freshman turned and galloped the remaining 42 yards, eluding tacklers en route to a 51-yard touchdown. The Maroons went ahead 28-10 at that point with 11 minutes remaining in the game.
Carroll put the exclamation point on the win on his team's final drive. He busted out for a 38-yard scoring run, cutting left directly through the heart of the defense and turning on the afterburners to reach the end zone. Millsaps ended up tossing a 30-yard touchdown pass as time expired to account for the final 35-16 score.
Overall, UChicago ran for 220 yards and passed for 269 for a total output of 489 yards. Moser was 19 of 36 passing for 229 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Eight different receivers caught passes on the day, with Nepa, Carroll and sophomore wide receiver Andrew Falk pulling in four receptions each.
The Majors passed for 351 yards and ran for 109 yards for a total of 460 yards of offense. As the game progressed, UChicago's defensive line consistently broke through for more and more pressure on the opposing quarterback. While the Maroons only registered one sack, they did total 13 quarterback hurries in the game, led by Casey with four and senior nose tackle Eddie Giannina with three.
Senior linebacker Jackson Garrey tied his own career-high set last week with 16 tackles on the afternoon. Sophomore safety Jeremy Vincent had nine tackles, while freshman safety Bill Rotnicki and senior linebacker Hayden Harrow finishing with eight stops apiece. UChicago also broke up nine passes.
- Saturday, Sept. 24 – UChicago at Centre College, 1:30 PM (ET)