CHICAGO – Three Maroon touchdowns in the opening 10 minutes set the tone as the University of Chicago football team rolled to a 48-16 victory against Lake Forest College in the 2018 season finale on Saturday at Stagg Field.
The Maroons concluded the season with a 7-3 record – their most wins since going 8-1 in 2014. The team also broke the modern-era school records for points scored in a season (365) and fewest points allowed in a season (118). The previous best marks were 317 points scored in 2010 and 144 points allowed in 2013.
UChicago honored its 14-member senior class before the game and proceeded to send them off in style, with the Maroon offensive machine operating as efficiently as ever and the defense smothering Lake Forest's attempts to catch up.
The Maroons amassed 409 yards of total offense and kept drives alive with 11 conversions on their 18 third downs. Junior quarterback Marco Cobian completed 25 of 34 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns while also adding a score on the ground. First-year Jacob Jackson paced the receivers with eight catches for 88 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore running back Vittorio Tricase took the lead in the running game as he accumulated 112 yards on 24 carries and punched in two scores.
Defensive pressure yielded the Maroons seven tackles for a loss and two sacks. First-year linebacker Josh Godosky claimed the most total tackles with 11 and two for a loss, while sophomore nose tackle Jackson Ross racked up eight tackles with a sack. Lake Forest compiled 246 yards after entering the contest with an average of 363.8 per game. The Foresters converted only three of their 11 third downs and the visitors only held the ball for 19:27 while the hosts gobbled up 40 minutes of possession time.
UChicago struck soon after kickoff, as Cobian dropped a screen pass to first-year running back Nicholas D'Ambrose for a 32-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage. After D'Ambrose rushed for another 18 yards on the next snap, bringing the ball to the Lake Forest 15-yard line, a fumble and a holding penalty left the Maroons facing 3rd-and-22. Dropping back to pass, Cobian hit first-year wideout Matt Quaglia between defenders over the middle and he crashed into the end zone to put UChicago in front little more than two minutes into the contest.
The Maroons forced Lake Forest into an opening three-and-out, giving the hosts a chance for another early score. After converting one third down through the air, another conversion attempt appeared to fall short near midfield, but a facemask penalty extended the drive. D'Ambrose raced forward for 11 yards on the next play. Cobian took a sack but immediately bounced back with a pass that found Jackson open for 23 yards. With the ball now on the Lake Forest nine-yard-line, Cobian lofted a jump ball that junior receiver Dante Nepa snatched away from his defender in the back of the end zone.
Already ahead by two scores, UChicago piled it on with a forced fumble on the ensuing kickoff. A prolonged battle for the ball saw the Maroons emerge with possession and a Lake Forest penalty set up the offense deep in opposing territory. Turning to his feet instead of his arm, Cobian scrambled in from nine yards out and UChicago held a 21-0 lead before 10 minutes had elapsed.
Once again, Lake Forest could not move the chains against the Maroon defense and punted. A methodical 14-play, 72-yard drive advanced the ball as Cobian picked apart the Foresters with short passing. The Maroons converted a crucial fourth-and-short with a speed option that Cobian flipped to Tricase. The sophomore running back then scampered to the left a play later for an 11-yard touchdown.
Facing a 28-0 deficit with the second quarter just underway, Lake Forest picked up a first down but immediately went backwards as senior defensive lineman Mike McGinley shot through the line for a sack and a 10-yard loss. Another big sack, this time from Ross, left the Foresters with no choice but to punt on 4th-and-28.
For the first time, the Maroons did not end their drive with a touchdown, instead punting back to the Foresters. The visitors capitalized after a pair of penalties with a 37-yard pass down the right side that left the Maroons with their backs to the goal line. A back got loose in the flat and Lake Forest got on the scoreboard with a seven-yard touchdown pass. Junior defensive end Ben Christensen then smashed through the middle to block the extra point try and the enthusiastic Maroon defense nearly broke free to score two points of their own after scooping up the loose ball.
Another impressive drive made it 35-6 just before halftime. The Foresters brought pressure and a sack left UChicago facing forced 3rd-and-19, but Cobian spotted Jackson and connected for a first down. Under duress again on the next play, Cobian escaped the clutches of a defender and scrambled to the Lake Forest three-yard-line, where Tricase finished things off with ease.
A long kickoff return from the Foresters gave the trailing team hope to start the second half, but stiff defending forced the Foresters to settle for a field goal after starting their drive at the Maroon 25-yard-line. It was the first field goal UChicago had conceded since September 22, as the Maroons had allowed opponents to convert just two of their prior 12 field goal attempts this year.
Short passes from Cobian and carries from Tricase moved the Maroons down the field in response. Cobian capped off the drive with a perfectly-weighted toss to Jackson for his third passing touchdown of the day and UChicago enjoyed a 42-9 advantage.
As the fourth quarter began, LFC executed a successful trick play, throwing one lateral pass and a second downfield to the UChicago 10-yard-line. On the next snap, a Forester receiver wrestled his way to a jump ball near the pylon and the visitors had their second touchdown of the game.
UChicago's last scoring drive got under way with a series of carries from Tricase, including a 22-yard burst during which he recovered his own fumble without breaking stride. The Maroons faced 4th-and-3 at the Lake Forest 21-yard-line but Cobian's crisp execution on an out route picked up a first down as he placed the ball in the hands of Jackson. Putting an exclamation point on the day, Cobian pitched wide to senior running back Henry Imburgia, who tumbled over the line for the Maroons' final touchdown of the season.
Lake Forest mounted a drive in the closing minutes and looked poised to score with an open receiver in the flat, but senior safety Jeremy Vincent jarred the ball loose at the Maroon four-yard-line and junior linebacker Zach Atiyeh swept in to recover the fumble.