JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – Despite remaining in control for much of Saturday afternoon, the University of Chicago football team was forced to fend off a late fourth-quarter charge from Illinois College to win 20-14.
The Maroons improved to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Midwest Conference South Division. They will next play Lake Forest College in the MWC divisional crossover at home on Saturday, Nov. 16. The Blueboys dropped to 5-3 (2-2 MWC South).
UChicago struck first approximately 10 minutes into the game. Starting with a short field after a 14-yard punt by IC, the visitors strung together completions that traveled 12, 12 and 17 yards to get into the red zone. On first-and-goal, sophomore running back Nicholas D'Ambrose ran his way into the end zone from 10 yards out.
The two teams exchanged missed field goals on the next two possessions. Illinois College's attempt from 37 yards was blocked by junior safety Daniel Cho to give the Maroons their sixth blocked kick of the year.
UChicago's defense nearly put up points on the board soon after. The hosts were dropped for losses on three-consecutive plays, including two sacks that put them on their own one-yard line. This time a 12-yard punt put the Maroons in position to score, and they did with a 29-yard field goal by senior kicker Daniel Ducic.
Midway through the second quarter, senior quarterback Marco Cobian called his own number and galloped for a 22-yard gain deep into Blueboys territory. Three plays later, Cobian found senior wide receiver Dante Nepa for a 10-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-0. Nepa's 24 career receiving touchdowns currently rank third in school history.
The visiting squad got the ball back in the final minutes before halftime in good field position thanks to another short punt. Facing four down and eight yards to go, Cobian completed an 11-yard pass to sophomore wideout Mark Eaton. However, UChicago was stonewalled near the goal line and settled for a 19-yard Ducic field goal as time expired heading into the break.
Neither side could get much going in the third quarter, but Illinois College began its journey on the comeback trail in the fourth quarter. After picking up a fourth-down conversion near midfield, the Blueboys kept moving the chains and ended up with a 16-yard touchdown pass.
The hosts stayed aggressive, immediately executing a successful onside kick to get the ball right back. Fourth down paid off again as IC tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to draw within 20-14 with less than six minutes remaining in the game.
After UChicago turned the ball over on downs, the Blueboys had one last shot to win with two minutes left. But the Maroon defense stood tall – junior defensive tackle Jackson Ross sacked the quarterback on fourth down to clinch the win.
The Maroons outgained the Blueboys 368 to 250. The reliable ground game delivered again to the tune of 246 rushing yards for 4.4 yards per carry. IC's runners were held to 90 rushing yards and 2.7 yards per carry.
Junior running back Mike Martinson racked up 148 rushing yards on 30 carries (4.9 YPC). Cobian produced 79 yards on 15 carries while also completing 12 of 20 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown. Nepa made three catches for 47 yards and a score. Eaton posted four receptions for 39 yards.
Stops in the backfield were a common occurrence on Saturday. Illinois College tallied 12 tackles for loss, including three sacks, while UChicago collected nine tackles for loss and four sacks.
The defensive tackle duo of Ross and sophomore Davis Govrik were a menace on the inside. The two players combined for 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss. Junior defensive end Ross Martin tallied two sacks. Junior cornerback Ryan Montgomery recorded two tackles for loss as well. Senior safety Bill Rotnicki led the team with 10 stops. Cho and first-year safety Jason Heine (one TFL) added nine tackles apiece.
- Saturday, Nov. 16 @ 12:00 PM – Lake Forest College at UChicago