CHICAGO – A thrilling battle full of twists and turns came down to the final play at the goal line, as the University of Chicago football team came up just inches short of victory in a 21-20 loss to Monmouth College on Saturday afternoon.
The Midwest Conference contest featured the top two teams in the South Division as the Fighting Scots (5-2 record, 3-0 MWC) visited the Maroons (4-3, 2-1 MWC) at Stagg Field. Before the game, UChicago honored its 20 seniors and their families on the field as part of Senior Day festivities. Over the last four years, that group has produced a cumulative record of 21-16.
With two teams that can run the ball effectively while also stopping the rush, Saturday promised to be a grinding battle in the trenches. It lived up to that billing as they combined for 97 rushing attempts in the game versus 39 pass attempts. While Monmouth only ran six more offensive plays than UChicago, the visitors picked up crucial third downs to extend drives and keep the defense on the field. The Fighting Scots ultimately led time of possession 37:13 to 22:47.
The first quarter was a scoreless affair as the defenses flexed their muscle. With a rotating pair of quarterbacks at its disposal, Monmouth elected to lean on lead running back Devin Lawrence, who proved up to the task. Lawrence continually racked up yards after contact and carried the offense all day en route to 165 rushing yards on 34 carries. He opened the scoring on the first drive of the second quarter with a four-yard dash to the end zone.
UChicago eventually answered back right near the end of the half. Junior running back Mike Martinson gashed the defense for a 33-yard gain and the offense moved into Monmouth territory. Facing third down with the clock running down, senior quarterback Marco Cobian found wide-open wide receiver Caden Kalinowski streaking up the left sideline. The sophomore pulled in the 27-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining. The ensuing extra point hit the upright and the Maroons trailed 7-6.
Monmouth made one last bid for points to end the half. But the 46-yard field goal attempt was smothered by junior defensive tackle Jackson Ross charging up the middle through the line.
The Fighting Scots extended the advantage to 14-6 on its first possession of the third quarter, with Lawrence bulling his way in from one yard out. The two teams then exchanged fumbles on the next two plays.
Early in the fourth quarter, Monmouth attempted another long field goal, this time from 45 yards. The same result occurred as Ross once again batted the kick down. UChicago has now blocked five kicks on the year.
With momentum on its side, the Maroons capitalized. On third down and long, senior wide receiver Dante Nepa shined with a 17-yard grab in traffic to keep the sticks moving. Cobian then dashed 14 yards on the next third-down scenario. Sophomore running back Nick D'Ambrose came into the game at that point and ripped off four rushes for 32 yards, including a one-yard touchdown plunge to make it 14-12. The Maroons elected to go for two and succeeded when Cobian found Nepa to tie the game 14-14.
The visitors threatened immediately after, advancing to UChicago's 25-yard line. However, Lawrence was stonewalled on a fourth-down carry and came up inches short to turn the ball over on downs. UChicago was picked off shortly after, but the defense stood tall once again to force a punt.
A final Hail Mary pass as the fourth quarter expired fell to the ground for Monmouth, and the two squads proceeded to overtime.
Lawrence wasted no time, breaking through a multitude of tacklers for a 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime. Down 21-14, UChicago needed a touchdown of its own. On third-and-goal, a jet sweep from Kalinowski hit pay dirt as he weaved his way into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
The Maroons went for the win on the PAT attempt. A bit of misdirection allowed a pass into the left flat to one of UChicago's offensive linemen. While stretching the ball out for the goal line, the ball was jarred loose by a Monmouth defender, caromed off the pylon and went out of bounds. The referees on the field ruled the ball had not broken the plane, which ended the game 21-20 in favor of Monmouth.
The final stats saw UChicago compile 256 rushing yards (5.8 yards per rush) and 89 passing yards. The Fighting Scots collected 217 yards rushing (4.1 yards per carry) and 135 yards passing.
Martinson led the ground attack with 124 yards on 15 carries (8.3 YPC). D'Ambrose (46 yards) and junior running back Vittorio Tricase (44 yards) had 10 rushes apiece. Cobian completed 9 of 21 passes with one touchdown and one interception. Nepa tallied three receptions for 41 yards.
Defensively, Ross racked up a career-high 18 tackles to go with his two blocked kicks. Junior defensive end Ross Martin made an impact with a pair of sacks for 20 yards lost. Sophomore defensive tackle Davis Govrik also set a new career best with 12 tackles, including one for loss. Senior linebacker Zach Atiyeh posted 10 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Senior linebacker Henry Winebrake added nine tackles of his own.
- Saturday, Nov. 9 @ 1:00 PM – UChicago at Illinois College