CHICAGO – Down 10 points with only six minutes left, the University of Chicago football team turned to its no-huddle passing attack to produce. The offense responded by executing a pair of textbook two-minute drills to take the lead, and a pass breakup in the end zone as time expired clinched the 38-34 comeback victory for the Maroons over Birmingham-Southern College on Saturday.
The Maroons evened their record at 2-2 overall while improving to 2-1 in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA). The Panthers dropped to 1-4 (1-2 SAA).
Offense ruled the day as the two sides combined for 1,037 total yards in wet conditions. Senior quarterback Burke Moser set a new career high with 433 passing yards, completing 37 of 58 throws with two touchdowns and one interception. Senior wide receiver Syd Reynolds was one of his most frequent targets, as Reynolds snagged a career-best eight catches for 105 yards and one touchdown. Junior running back Chandler Carroll found the end zone three times on the ground and finished with 115 rushing yards on 23 carries. He also led the team in receiving with nine receptions for 114 yards.
Birmingham-Southern's option offense flustered UChicago throughout the day. The Panthers consistently set the edge all game long as the Maroons couldn't get off the blocks. The visitors finished with 254 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) with speed runs to the perimeter and occasionally up the gut with their quarterback.
The Panthers struck first with a short field on its opening drive of the game. BSC went 50 yards on eight plays capped by the quarterback's 11-yard touchdown scamper. Then at the start of the second quarter, the visitors drove into the red zone again. A six-yard loss on third down forced a 31-yard field goal and BSC took a 10-0 lead.
After sputtering in the first quarter, UChicago's next offensive possession in the second quarter saw a return to form. The Maroons reached to the opposing 23-yard line before a Panther defensive back jumped a route and intercepted the pass. A quick three-and-out followed and UChicago got the ball back in BSC territory. Carroll gashed a 15-yard run to move the chains, and junior wide receiver Jamie Rieger hauled in a 20-yard gain to set up first-and-goal. Carroll burst through two plays later on a seven-yard touchdown run to make the score 10-7.
The very next possession, BSC's formidable speed on the outside resulted in a 56-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-7. However, UChicago was undeterred. The home side scored touchdowns on the final two drives of the first half, going under three minutes each time. Carroll accounted for all 65 yards on the initial drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown plunge. The next possession saw Moser march 78 yards on 12 plays, picking up five first downs along the way with precision. The go-ahead touchdown saw Moser sling an eight-yard dart to Reynolds' sure hands in the back of the end zone with only seven seconds left on the clock. UChicago took the 21-17 lead and the momentum into the halftime locker room.
The third quarter went poorly for the home team as BSC put together a pair of scoring drives that ate up more than 10 minutes of game clock. Third down was a particular struggle – BSC at one point was 8-for-12 on third-down conversions in the game (67 percent).
Sophomore kicker Mike Kurzydlowski booted a 25-yard field goal through the uprights to tie the game 24-24. UChicago nearly tied the score again at the start of the fourth quarter, but a fourth-down pass to the end zone was knocked down.
After a 39-yard field goal, BSC held a 34-24 lead with 6:27 remaining in the game. That's when the Maroons started the offensive fireworks. On fourth down and six yards to go, Moser found Rieger open for an 11-yard gain that moved the ball to midfield. He then hooked up with Reynolds for gains of 12 and 22 yards, with the senior wideout hanging on through hard contact. The two-minute, 11-second drive culminated with an eight-yard touchdown connection from Moser to freshman wide receiver Dante Nepa.
BSC pulled out a trick play on third-and-long with a wide receiver pass downfield. But the pass traveled over the open receiver's head and out of bounds, forcing a critical punt.
With 3:19 left on the clock, the Maroons started its final drive on their own 15-yard line. Moser picked apart the prevent defense with five-straight completions to get across midfield. Three completions later, UChicago was knocking on the door at the nine-yard line. Carroll nearly found the end zone again with a dash to the right side, but he was tripped up at the one-yard line. He then finished the job from that distance for his third score of the game, giving UChicago a 38-34 lead.
The Panthers received the ball back with 64 seconds remaining, and they almost pulled off the upset. A 31-yard pass on the first play put the ball at the 50-yard line. Two-straight 16-yard gains on third down then got BSC into the red zone. But on the final play of the game, sophomore safety Jeremy Vincent broke up a pass in the end zone to preserve the victory as time expired.
UChicago racked up a season-best 548 yards (433 passing, 115 rushing). BSC concluded with 489 yards (254 rushing, 235 passing).
Vincent and senior linebacker Jackson Garrey tied for the team lead with 15 tackles and one tackle for loss apiece. Senior nose tackle Eddie Giannina made nine tackles with one tackle for loss. Junior defensive end Peter Casey forced a fumble, hurried the quarterback twice, made one tackle for loss and collected five tackles overall.
- Saturday, Oct. 8 – UChicago at Berry College, Noon (ET)