(PITTSBURGH, Pa.) – Carnegie Mellon University head football coach Rich Lackner reached 200 wins in his career, as the Tartans defeated the Thiel College Tomcats 49-33 on Saturday, October 22 on the turf of Gesling Stadium. The Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) victory moves the Tartans record to 4-3 and 4-2 in PAC play while the Tomcats are now 2-5, 1-4.
Lackner became the 79th football coach in NCAA history to amass 200 wins. Coach Lackner is one of 13 active head coaches among all divisions with 200 career victories, and he is tied for third place among active Division III head coaches in total career wins. Lackner is only the 34th coach ever to win all 200 games at the same institution, and just the 11th to do so at the Division III level. Defensive Coordinator Terry Bodnar has been with Lackner throughout his 31-year tenure at Carnegie Mellon and was also recognized postgame. (See video below)
Carnegie Mellon recorded 538 yards of total offense with 241 coming by way of the ground attack. Junior running back Sam Benger (Hingham, Mass.) led the Tartans with 130 yards on 27 carries and tied a career-high with four touchdown runs. Sophomore Rory Hubbard (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif./Palos Verdes Peninsula) ran for a season-best 81 yards on nine carries and a score. Sophomore quarterback Alex Cline (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Jerome) passed for a career-best 292 yards and a touchdown with senior Matt Forjan (Fredericksburg, Va./James Monroe) his favorite target on the afternoon. Forgan finished the game with career marks of seven receptions and 139 yards while hauling down a juggling touchdown early in the second quarter.
Senior safety Malcolm Guya (Whitehall Pa.) led the Tartans defense with 10 tackles including a career-best eight solo tackles. Junior linebacker Stanley Bikulege (Greer, S.C./Saint Joseph's Catholic) ended with nine tackles and senior Jack Fagan (Milford, Pa./Delaware Valley) totaled a career-best eight.
Thiel totaled 499 yards of offense with senior quarterback Ryan Radke accounting for 351 yards. The senior passed for 245 yards and a score while rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown. The Tomcats were led on the ground by sophomore running back Nick Barca who finished with a game-high 153 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman Jaquan Hicks hauled in nine catches for a team-high 123 yards in the setback.
Following the first 15 minutes of play, the score was tied at 14-14. Benger started the scoring with a 3-yard run, but on the second play of the ensuing Thiel possession, Radke sprinted 45 yards down the sideline to know the score at 7-7.
Benger add his second score of the quarter on the Tartans next possession with a 1-yard run that capped off an 11-play, 63-yard drive. Once again, the Tomcats answered with a score of their own. Barca finished off a 10-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for the equalizer.
Carnegie Mellon then scored on back-to-back drives to push the score to 28-14 with eight minutes to play in the half. Cline found Forgan for a 27-yard connection to start the Tartans scoring in the second quarter before Hubbard scampered 39 yards for his touchdown run. Thiel added a score in the closing minute of the half to cut the deficit in half at 28-21 when Barca scored his second of the game. The sophomore ran through the middle of the line for a 17-yard score.
The Tartans took the opening drive of the second half and marched 44 yards on five plays resulting in another Benger touchdown run. This time the back took it in from five yards out to extend the home teams lead back to 14 (35-21). Benger's fourth score of the game came before the close of the third quarter, as he found the end zone on an 8-yard run.
Thiel cut the Carnegie Mellon advantage early in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard Barca run to notch his third rushing touchdown of the day. The Tartans responded, as Cline scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal with 10 minutes to play to push the score to 49-27. Thiel made it a two-possession game, 49-33, with 4:32 left in regulation when Radke found senior Alex Horvatits on a 7-yard touchdown connection, but that was as close as the Tomcats got.
Carnegie Mellon returns to the field Saturday, October 29 when they entertain the Titans of Westminster College in the Tartans final home contest of the season. Kick is set for 1:00 p.m. on the turf of Gesling Stadium.