(PITTSBURGH, Pa.) – The Carnegie Mellon University football team hosted the 16th-ranked Presidents of Washington and Jefferson College in a Presidents' Athletic Conference (PAC) showdown and dropped a hard fought, 27-20, battle. Carnegie Mellon is 5-1 and 3-1 in PAC play while W&J remains unbeaten at 5-0 and 3-0 (PAC).
Carnegie Mellon outgained W&J 381-361, but the Presidents capitalized on three forced turnovers which led to 21 points for the visitors. Junior quarterback Alex Cline (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Jerome) attempted a career-high 40 passes while completing 20 for 268 yards and two touchdowns. The signal callers main target was senior wide receiver John Prather (Olney, Md./Our Lady Of Good Counsel) who finished with seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. It marked Prather's fourth (third straight) 100-yard game this season and ninth of his career. Senior running back Sam Benger (Hingham, Mass.) led the Tartans on the ground with 18 carries for 96 yards.
W&J who entered as the nation's fourth leading pass offense, was held to 164 yards. The Tartan defense was led by senior linebackers Stanley Bikulege (Greer, S.C./Saint Joseph's Catholic) and Quentin Wolfe (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point) who both finished with 12 tackles. It marked a career-best for Wolfe. Sophomore Michael Lohmeier (Clarendon Hills, Ill./Hinsdale Central) added a career-best 2.0 sacks for a loss of 11 yards.
The Presidents rushing attack was headed by Justin Vickless. The senior back rushed for career-best 158 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
The Presidents struck first when Alex Rowse connected with Cody Hearst on a 55-yard catch-in-run score with 1:24 to play in the first quarter. W&J doubled its lead with five minutes remaining in the half when Nick Murgo returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown.
Carnegie Mellon made the score 14-6 with 39 seconds remaining in the half on a 23-yard touchdown strike from Cline to Prather. The score was setup by a 34-yard interception return by senior outside linebacker Kyle Brittain (Largo, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic). Brittain caught a deflected ball and returned it to the Presidents' 30-yard line after Wolfe broke up the pass by Rowse.
W&J extended its lead to 20-6 with four minutes to play in the third quarter when EJ Thompson scampered 19 yards. The Tartans responded on the next possession, marching 52 yards on eight plays which resulted in a 17-yard touchdown strike from Cline to Prather to make the score 20-13 at the end of the third quarter.
On the Tartans first play of the fourth quarter, after forcing W&J to punt, Benger rushed for 14 yards before being stripped of the football and Presidents' Jeffrey Oxner recovered at the visitor's 43-yard line. It marked Benger's first lost fumble in 809 career carries. Nine plays later, Vickless went around the right edge for a 2-yard touchdown and pushed the lead to 27-13 with 9:27 to play.
Carnegie Mellon didn't go away and cut the score to 27-20 with just under three minutes to play when Cline scrambled around the right side for a 6-yard score. Senior placekicker Tyler Kohman (Pataskala, Ohio/Columbus Academy) recovered the onside kick after the kick deflecting off of a President.
On the first play following the onside kick, Cline was sacked for a nine-yard loss and then pressure forced a pair of incompletions on the next two plays. After a Tartan time out before fourth down, Cline fumbled the snap, which was picked up by Benger, who flipped the ball back to Cline which ended with a 48-yard completion to senior Tommy Mansfield (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville Central) at the W&J 15-yard line. However, the officials threw a flag on the play and determined that Cline's pass was an illegal forward pass because Benger's toss went forward, making Cline's throw the second forward pass on the play. The result was a loss of down and turnover on downs, giving W&J the ball back with 1:44 to play, as the Presidents ran the clock out to end the game.
Carnegie Mellon will return to play on Saturday, October 14, when the Golden Tornadoes of Geneva College travel to Pittsburgh for a 1:00 p.m. kick.