CHICAGO – On a blustery and clear October afternoon, the University of Chicago football team utilized a ball-hawking defense and opportunistic red-zone offense to defeat Knox College 37-6 on Saturday.
The Maroons moved to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the Midwest Conference South Division. The Prairie Fire dropped to 2-3 overall, 0-1 MWC South.
Saturday was Homecoming for the Maroons as a large contingent of fans were in attendance at Stagg Field. Winds from the south consistently blew around 20 miles per hour all game, which made moving the ball through the air that much more challenging. The two teams combined to complete 49 percent of their pass attempts (28-for-57) in the contest.
The run game was on point during UChicago's second possession. Junior running back Mike Martinson put up 25 yards on three carries to start things out. Then fellow junior Vittorio Tricase made his season debut with five-straight carries for 34 yards, capped off with a four-yard touchdown run.
After a quick Knox three-and-out, the Maroons were marching again. This time a pass interference call got UChicago across midfield, followed by gains of 12, 23 and 11 yards. Martinson punched the ball in from two yards out to make it 14-0.
Senior linebacker Zach Atiyeh gave the ball right back to his offense by picking off a pass across the middle at the Knox 30. The home side looked poised to make it a 21-0 score at the beginning of the second quarter. But a series of Knox defensive stops limited UChicago to a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Daniel Ducic.
A broken play right before halftime gave the Prairie Fire some life. On third down and long, a screen pass to the running back ended up traversing 63 yards for a touchdown with 1:10 on the clock. The Maroons quickly moved the ball down the field, but a missed field goal as time expired kept the score at 17-6.
Another Knox interception gave UChicago momentum in the third quarter. Senior safety Bill Rotnicki leapt in front of the intended receiver and hauled in the pick at UChicago's 35-yard line on third down. Martinson went right back to work with three-straight rushes, before senior quarterback Marco Cobian executed a flawless play-action pass to sophomore wide receiver Mark Eaton for a gain of 43 yards. Cobian called his own number on third-and-goal, rolling right and plunging across the line to make the score 23-6.
After a turnover on downs, Cobian got the ball back and evaded a blitz off the edge to find junior tight end Dylan Faires in the flat. Faires picked up the first down and then some for a total of 23 yards. Sophomore wideout Elliott Grays was the next big-play recipient with a 24-yard reception. Then it was a senior-to-senior connection, as Cobian threaded a nine-yard touchdown to wide receiver Dante Nepa.
Early in the fourth quarter, Martinson broke a 50-plus yard punt return that was called back by an illegal block. But the offense remained unfazed, marching down the field once again. Sophomore Philip Martini came in relief of Cobian during the drive and subsequently delivered one of the plays of the game. A high snap sent Martini scrambling backwards to corral the ball at Knox's 41-yard line. With defenders charging, Martini quickly picked up the ball and launched a completion to an open Nepa that got the Maroons to the 10-yard line. Three plays later, the two hooked up again with a five-yard touchdown pass to account for the final 37-6 score.
Sophomore safety Mike Lawlor provided the final exclamation point on Knox's last possession with an interception of his own on third down.
UChicago went 6-for-6 in the red zone and outgained the Prairie Fire 410-228 overall. The Maroons ran for 183 yards (4.2 yards per carry) compared to 61 yards by the visitors (2.1 yards per carry). Third down was also key, as UChicago limited Knox to 3 of 13 (23 percent) while posting a healthy 9 of 18 conversions offensively (50 percent). Martinson was potent once again on punt returns, averaging 20.2 yards per return for a total of 101.
Cobian completed 14 of 30 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. Martini went 2-for-2 with 23 yards and a score. Nepa led the receiving corps with five catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Eaton added 60 yards on three catches.
Martinson rushed for 76 yards on 13 carries (5.8 YPC), while Tricase put up 59 rushing yards on 15 carries. Sophomore Matthew Nagler broke off a couple big runs for a total of 42 yards.
Defensively, junior defensive tackle Jackson Ross had a nose for the ball with a team-high 12 tackles. Junior safety Daniel Cho posted six tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups. Junior linebacker Graham Repp collected 1.5 tackles for loss. Junior cornerback Ryan Montgomery contributed three tackles, one tackle for loss and two breakups.
- Saturday, Oct. 19 @ 1:00 PM – UChicago at Cornell College