CHICAGO – Defensive playmaking cleared the way for the Maroons to run rampant on offense as University of Chicago football rolled to a 56-9 victory over Illinois College on Saturday afternoon at Stagg Field.
The Maroons improved to 1-2 with their first victory of the 2018 campaign, while the Blueboys fell to 0-3. The 56 points were the most by a UChicago squad since the 2010 team scored 61 against Carnegie Mellon University. UChicago scored 55 points twice in the 2017 season against Cornell College and Beloit College.
With first-year quarterback Jeffrey Jackson at the helm, UChicago found its rhythm and amassed 470 total yards. Jackson completed 22 of his 31 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns. He spread the ball around to 10 receivers, connecting with a different target on each score. A powerful rushing attack produced 236 yards with an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Sophomore running back Vittorio Tricase led the charge with 92 yards on 15 attempts, while first-year Nicholas D'Ambrose ran for three touchdowns and senior Henry Imburgia raced away for a 69-yard score on the longest play of the day.
Not to be outdone, the Maroon defense consistently impressed. Sophomore nose tackle Jackson Ross hauled in a spectacular interception after batting the ball at the line and later recovered a fumble he forced. Junior cornerback Roberto Rabines snagged another pick for the third turnover of the game. Ross led the team with 10 tackles, while linebacker Zach Atiyeh contributed nine. Junior defensive end Ben Christensen racked up 1.5 sacks as well.
UChicago started slow as an interception on its first possession gave Illinois College an early scoring chance, but the Maroon defense held the Blueboys to a 30-yard field goal.
The home team fought back with a five-play, 66-yard touchdown drive. Jackson got the ball moving with a scramble before completing two short passes. Tricase moved the chains again on the ground, then Jackson hit junior wideout Dante Nepa for a 28-yard touchdown to put UChicago out in front.
The teams traded punts for the remainder of the first quarter but a 20-yard return from senior safety Jeremy Vincent as the second got underway primed the Maroons for another score, with the offense taking over at the opposition 32. It was not long before a perfectly-placed ball from Jackson split two defenders and found first-year receiver Jacob Jackson in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
The UChicago offense would return to the field in even better position after the defense pounced on its first turnover of the day. Facing third-and-5 at its own 20, Illinois College tried to complete a pass over the middle but Ross swatted it into the air, spun around, caught his own deflection, and rumbled down to the five-yard line. D'Ambrose made good on his teammate's highlight-reel effort, pounding through the middle to stretch the lead to 21-3.
The Blueboys shook off the sudden deficit and twice threatened to score as the first half drew to a close. Both times, however, the Maroon defense was more than equal to the task. Starting near midfield, the visitors marched to the UChicago nine-yard line before Ross stuffed a third-down rushing attempt and came out with the football. After the next UChicago drive stalled, Illinois College again began in good field position and progressed all the way to the UChicago three-yard-line with the help of a long completion and two penalties for pass interference. After forcing two incompletions, the Maroons stopped a rush for a loss to set up a fourth-and-goal with eight seconds remaining. Vincent broke up a pass into the end zone and UChicago took its lead unscathed into the break.
The Maroons received the ball to begin the second half and Tricase unleashed a trio of scurrying carries, the last good for 37 yards. Jackson then lobbed a jump ball for senior wide receiver Trevor Anderson, who made an astonishing catch at the back of the end zone while keeping his heels in bounds.
All the momentum now favored the hosts, who forced a three-and-out then drove right back down the field for another touchdown as D'Ambrose rushed in for his second score of the day. Another three-and-out set the stage for another UChicago touchdown drive. Jackson completed passes of 16 and 14 yards before connecting with first-year wideout Elliott Grays in stride over the middle for a 25-yard score.
D'Ambrose completed his hat trick from 15 yards out early in the fourth quarter, turning the corner and diving for the pylon.
Despite its struggles with the relentless Maroon defense, Illinois College managed to build a drive in the late game. A roughing the passer penalty negated an apparent interception and a few plays later the Blueboys capped off a 13-play, 82-yard drive with a touchdown pass.
UChicago, however, insisted on having the final say. After the ensuing kickoff and a six-yard rush on first down, Imburgia broke loose along the right sideline and sprinted 69 yards to put an exclamation point on the win.
- Saturday, Sept. 29 @ 1:00 PM – UChicago at Cornell College