CMU offense looks nearly unstoppable in blowout victory

Hearon scans the field before making a pass. (credit: Junior Photographer) Hearon scans the field before making a pass. (credit: Junior Photographer)

The Carnegie Mellon football team came into the evening with three losses on its ledger, the same number as their opposition, Bethany (W.V.). It turned out to be the visitors who would live up to that dismal billing as the Tartans victimized a defense that seemed out of sorts and disorganized. The 56–35 final score accurately reflects a game where the defenses were largely irrelevant. Bethany’s inability to keep pace with the Tartans’ offense was less due to the Carnegie Mellon defense — the pass coverage was actually one of the Tartans’ major weak points — and more the result of an endless barrage of overthrows by the Bethany quarterback.

The story of the game was mostly told in the first half. On the Tartans’ first possession, a long punt return by sophomore safety Drew Fitzsimmons and a long run by running back Sam Benger set up a 31-yard strike from senior quarterback Andrew Hearon to sophomore wide receiver John Prather who laid out to haul in the opening score.

After a squib kick gave Bethany solid field position, four runs and a pass over the head of senior cornerback Vince Demarchi allowed Bethany to tie up the game. The Tartans responded quickly, however. Hearon hit senior wide receiver Graham Schilling for a 66-yard pass which set up a 14-yard Benger run for a touchdown. That touchdown was wiped by a holding penalty, but a Hearon pass to senior wide receiver Max Reinertsen and a 1-yard Benger run outside the right tackle gave the Tartans the lead again.

This lead was nearly short lived, but after driving deep into Carnegie Mellon territory, the Bethany quarterback overthrew a pass on fourth down through the back of the end zone, turning the ball back to the Tartans. Benger nearly took the ball to the house on the first run of the ensuing drive, but was tripped up at midfield. The Tartans eventually scored when Hearon again connected with Prather, this time on a 44-yard pass. The score prompted a meeting of the defense on the Bethany sideline, which did absolutely nothing. While Bethany was able to trim the lead to 7 with a touchdown on its possession, the Tartans were able to score on their fourth consecutive drive, this time on a one handed snag by Prather.

At that point, trouble began for the Tartans. Bethany was able to put points up with 23 seconds left in the first half. When the Tartans failed to score to open the second, Bethany was threatening, sitting on the edge of the red zone. On a curious decision to go for 4th and 20 from the 25 yard line, the Bethany quarterback overthrew his receiver on a route to the corner of the endzone.

After the play, the receiver audibly yelled “He was holding me. He was holding me. Are you f—ing kidding me?” The receiver had a point, as the defender trailing him appeared to have hold of his jersey, but the referee disagreed and the turnover was turned into a 75-yard touchdown drive finished off by a 7-yard run from Benger to extend the Tartan lead to 42–21 that probably signaled the end of competitive play, as Bethany never got closer than 14 points again.

There was one moment towards the end of the third quarter that encapsulated the day for the Bethany defense. After a successful overload, Hearon was hit as he launched a pass to junior wide receiver Matt Forjan, who had beaten his man. The hit caused the ball to be underthrown and hit the Bethany defender squarely in the hands. The defender proceeded to drop the ball three more times before it hit the ground, mercifully ending the play.

The pass was a hiccup in an otherwise strong performance from Hearon, who spread the ball around well and hit many long throws despite only completing 50 percent of his passes.

Prather in particular was doing a good job of finding space deep, as evidenced by his three touchdowns.

As usual, Benger also turned in a dominant performance, rushing for 200 yards yet again, helped by a strong performance from the offensive line.

The Tartan defense struggled, giving up 35 points but forcing five interceptions. Despite often spotty coverage, two tipped passes and — say it with me — several overthrows from the Bethany quarterback simply piled up and became a barrage of turnovers and allowed the Tartans to win by a lopsided margin.

The Tartans improved their record to 2–3, going 2–2 in conference play.

They continue their schedule Saturday Oct. 17, when they travel to Grove City.