CHICAGO – Three second-quarter touchdowns put University of Chicago football out in front en route to a comprehensive 35-6 Homecoming victory against Ripon College on Saturday afternoon at Stagg Field.
The victory improved the Maroons' record to 5-3 overall (3-1 MWC North) while Ripon dropped to 5-3 (2-2 MWC North).
UChicago's defense clamped down on the nation's third-ranked rushing attack, holding the Red Hawks, who entered the day averaging 330.9 rushing yards per game, to 235 yards on the ground. The Maroons only conceded six points, keeping Ripon far below its conference-leading average of 43.3 points per game.
Junior quarterback Marco Cobian stepped in to pilot the Maroon offense, completing 13 of his 18 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. UChicago's rushers supported the effort with 87 yards. First-year running back Nicholas D'Ambrose carried 19 times for 62 yards and a score, while sophomore running back Vittorio Tricase contributed two touchdowns from short range.
In a stellar team defensive performance, sophomore nose tackle Jackson Ross stood out with 17 tackles and three sacks. Maroon pressure in the back field led to five total sacks and nine tackles for loss. The push up front was also evident on special teams, as Ripon missed two field goals and an extra point.
Ripon quarterback Cormac Madigan entered the game averaging 10.3 yards per carry – ranking second in NCAA Division III – in the triple-option attack. Despite carrying the ball 30 times, Madigan was stifled for only 2.5 yards per carry.
The Maroons stuffed Ripon on the first two plays from scrimmage, but a 39-yard burst up the right sideline on an option pitch got the visitors rolling. The Red Hawks advanced methodically from that point, completing a 12-play, 84-yard touchdown drive with a two-yard plunge. The extra point skewed wide left, leaving UChicago trailing 6-0.
After a three-and out on UChicago's opening drive, the Maroon defense stepped up to force a three-and-out in return, with Ross supplying a key sack.
UChicago took over at the Ripon 37-yard-line after a penalty for kick catch inference and sought to capitalize. Cobian found Jackson three times before the drive stalled inside the Ripon red zone. The Maroons set up a 26-yard field goal attempt, but a Red Hawk lineman jumped offside to give UChicago first-and-goal from the four. Two plays later, D'Ambrose took the ball into the end zone on a counter, slipping from the grasp of one defender and leaping over another would-be tackler as he scampered just inside the left pylon. The converted extra point put the hosts in front 7-6.
Swarming defense shut down another Ripon drive as the second quarter got underway. This time, it was junior defensive end Ben Christensen who provided the big third-down sack.
The Red Hawks took the ball right back with an interception and sparked another drive by beating the defense wide for a 21-yard gain. Ripon escaped a third-and-nine with a quarterback scramble, then broke off a 23-yard run that brought the ball to the Maroon 10-yard-line. Junior safety Bill Rotnicki drove the visitors back with a tackle for a four-yard loss on first down, then a Ross sack on second down dragged the Red Hawks all the way back to the 21. After an incompletion on third-and-goal, Ripon attempted a 38-yard field goal only to watch it sail wide right.
After the critical stop, UChicago seized the momentum and quickly extended its lead. After a pair of rushes and a short completion advanced the Maroons toward midfield, Ripon crept offside again and Cobian capitalized on the free play, hitting Olson over the shoulder up the seam. Olson stumbled free of his defender, regained his balance, and raced in for the 56-yard score.
Ripon looked in position to reply after a 54-yard pass brought them to the Maroon 16-yard-line, but once again the home team's defense stood tall and forced a field goal. The Red Hawk kicker's effort from 31-yards looked more promising but clanged off the right upright.
UChicago took over in its own end, but D'Ambrose collected a short pass and broke free from a crowd, sprinting 61 yards down the left sideline before a desperation tackle tripped him up at the opposition four-yard-line. Three rushes later, Tricase plunged across the goal line and the Maroons led 21-6 with 1:26 remaining in the half.
Pinned back, Ripon had to punt with 49 seconds left, but senior safety Jeremy Vincent tracked back for the booming kick and returned it 38 yards to the Ripon 29-yard line. The Maroons would not let the scoring chance pass by, as Cobian scrambled for seven yards before finding junior receiver Dante Nepa over the middle to put the ball at the four-yard-line. A spike stopped the clock with 12 seconds remaining, then Cobian hit Quaglia on a quick out for the Maroons' third touchdown of the quarter and a 28-6 halftime lead.
UChicago's first drive of the second half bogged down near midfield, but a terrific effort from the coverage team downed the Maroon punt at the one-yard-line. Ripon could not escape the clutches of the Maroon defense and a short punt gave UChicago the ball again at the Red Hawks' 27-yard line. The Maroons immediately took a shot at the end zone, but Cobian's toss caromed into the arms of a Ripon defender and once again the Red Hawks took possession steps from their own goal line.
After a series of short drives and punts evened out the field position battle, Vincent came up with a superb diving interception, bobbling the ball between his fingertips before reeling it in while lying on his back. The turnover positioned the Maroons to advance into Ripon territory as the fourth quarter began. Working the clock, UChicago methodically advanced into the red zone, where a surging offensive line helped Tricase grind his way through the middle from a yard out.
Ahead 35-6 with just under 10 minutes to play, the Red Hawks made one last foray into Maroon territory before dropping a pass on fourth down.
Vincent was a big contributor defensively (10 tackles, one interception) as well as on special teams with four punt returns for 62 yards. Junior linebackers Zach Atiyeh and Henry Winebrake were in the middle of the action constantly with nine tackles each. Senior defensive lineman Mike McGinley posted eight tackles and one tackle for loss.
Ripon ran 20 more plays than the hosts, accruing 325 total yards. The Maroons rushed for 87 and threw for 206 for a total of 293 yards. UChicago also converted 7 of 12 on third down (58 percent).
- Saturday, Nov. 3 @ 1:00 PM – UChicago at Macalester College