October 22, 2010

CMU running a balanced attack

More news about: Carnegie Mellon
Jared Delello is one of five Tartan running backs averaging between 33 and 58 yards rushing per game.
Photo for Carnegie Mellon by Martin Santek Photography

It is one thing to have a pair of running backs that can share carries and work together to become an effective tandem, but it is a whole different story for Carnegie Mellon.

Veteran coach Rich Lackner does not have just one or two running backs he can depend on. He has five players who have gotten a substantial amount of work out of the backfield.

Jake Nardone, Justin Pratt, Jared Delello, Chris Garcia and Patrick Blanks have rushed for a combined 1,341 yards and 20 touchdowns on 242 carries for the Tartans, who are 4-2 and have a three-game winning streak after a 35-23 win at Ohio Wesleyan two weeks ago.

“We feel that all five all of those guys have earned, and I do mean earned and were not given, that opportunity to be on the field and to give us some good yards and downs out there,” Lackner said. “A lot of teams today are four- and five-wide. Some teams have one running back in the backfield, some have two, but that’s not common anymore.

“I’m a big believer in rewarding individuals who have proven that they’ve earned an opportunity to go out there and produce and play,” he added. “We do that across the board.”

When it comes to getting their carries, Lackner is not naïve to think his players would not take more attempts if given the opportunity. However, he does not tolerate jealousy.

“Deep down, I think they’re all happy for each other and I hope they would be,” he said. “We preach that this is very much a team game and unselfishness is not an option. You’re either unselfish or you can hit the highway.”

Nardone leads the way with 345 yards on 50 carries, while Pratt has gained 336 yards and scored seven touchdowns this season. Delello has 243 yards rushing and three touchdowns, with Blanks scoring four times while gaining 200 yards on 28 carries.

Garcia has proven to be the biggest dual threat out of Carnegie Mellon’s backfield.

He has 217 yards and one touchdown on 55 carries to go along with seven catches for 116 yards. He averages a team-leading 29.0 yards-per-game receiving and has hauled in three touchdowns this season.

“Each one’s a little bit different,” Lackner said. “In our offensive scheme, we ask the backs to be good blockers, to be good runners and also be able to catch the football. I think Chris Garcia, his forte is probably running the football and also being a receiver. He catches the ball very well and runs great patterns.

“The fullback position is not as much of a receiver, but Pratt and Delello, the two fullbacks that we’ve used, they’re both very capable runners and very fine blockers as well,” he continued. “If you look at Nardone, he’s very shifty. He’s a little guy, probably 5-foot-8, 5-7 maybe. He’s at a distinct disadvantage in terms of blocking with his size, but he’s a smart blocker and also a fine receiver. They all bring something to the table and we ask a lot of them. Running and catching, God gave you some of those skills. Some of them, you can develop and make the better. Blocking is something that can be learned.”
With all those weapons and their brand of the Wing-T offense, the Tartan coaching staff is aware of what affect they may have on defensive coordinators. As a team, the Tartans are out-rushing the opposition by more than 100 yards per game.

Carnegie Mellon’s offense averages 261.3 rushing yards and the Tartans also hold a 21-10 edge in rushing touchdowns.

“I think it presents a challenge to teams trying to prepare for us,” Lackner said. “Their defenses typically don’t see what we do on a consistent basis week-in and week-out. I think a lot of it, the timing and the motions that we do, misdirection plays and the steps that we require, it really is almost like a ballet.

“If you don’t have a good sense of it and you haven’t studied it carefully, it’s very hard to get that scout team to give you a good look,” he added. “With only a week, really five days, to prepare, it’s a little difficult for some teams to prepare for.”

The Tartans’ five-headed monster at running back will get their most difficult test to date on Saturday afternoon when they host the Wittenberg Tigers. The seventh-ranked Tigers come into the game at 7-0 and allow just 59 rushing yards-per-game. They have surrendered only four rushing touchdowns this season.

After Wittenberg, Carnegie Mellon begins University Athletic Association play at Washington U. Then, they host Chicago before ending the year with the annual Academic Bowl at Case Western Reserve.

“It’s as tough a four-game stretch as we’ve probably ever had,” Lackner said. “We’re talking about two teams that are undefeated (Wittenberg and Case). In the UAA, Chicago and WashU were picked ahead of us. We’ve got four tough games ahead of us, but I believe in our guys and Carnegie Mellon attracts very competitive individuals.

“These young men are competitive in every aspect of their lives and I think they’re going to give us a fantastic effort the next four weeks and we’ll just take it one game at a time,” he concluded. “Wittenberg is a challenge. They’ve got great coaching. They’re playing well as a team and Joe Fincham does a great job over there, but you still have to line up to play the game. When the whistle blows at one o’clock Saturday afternoon, the Carnegie Mellon football team will be ready to play.”

News and Notes
Albion sophomore running back Clinton Orr was the Britons’ lynchpin in their 27-14 win against Hope last weekend. Orr gained 212 yards and one touchdown on 35 carries and added two catches for 58 yards with another score. All told, Orr gained 276 all-purpose yards and earned Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association offensive player of the week honors for the second time in 2010.

Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham broke the school’s all-time wins record earlier this season and the Tigers have shown no signs of slowing down since. In their 52-0 win over the Kenyon Lords last weekend, the Tigers gained 655 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Ben Zoeller’s two-touchdown, 356-yard performance.

In Bethany’s 41-7 win against Thiel, freshman quarterback Matt Grimard accounted for 157 yards on 10-of-12 passing and gained another 60 on 15 carries. He threw for one touchdown and scored another two on the ground. Grimard connected with receiver C.J. Thomas seven times for 118 yards in the victory.

Ryan Flemming, a senior wide receiver for Ohio Northern, gained 201 yards and scored two touchdowns on four catches in a 41-21 victory against Baldwin-Wallace. He caught 54 and 49-yard touchdowns in leading the No. 11 Polar Bears to a win.

Great Lakes Region Teams in D3football.com’s Top 25 Poll This Week:
No. 2 Mount Union (OAC): No change following a 45-7 win over Heidelberg
No. 7 Wittenberg (NCAC): Up one spot after a 52-0 victory against Kenyon
No. 10 Thomas More (PAC): Up one spot following a 24-6 win over St. Vincent
No. 11 Ohio Northern (OAC): Up two spots after a 41-21 victory over Baldwin-Wallace
No. 15 Trine (MIAA): No change following a 38-0 win over Alma
No. 25 Wabash (NCAC): Into Top 25 with a 42-21 victory over Oberlin

Others Receiving Votes: Case Western Reserve (UAA) and Baldwin-Wallace (OAC)

Games of the Week
(7-0) at Carnegie Mellon (4-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.: Wittenberg will get a tough test in kts final game before returning home Nov. 6 for what amounts to a North Coast Athletic Conference championship game with Wabash. With Carnegie Mellon’s ability to run the football, it will be difficult task for Wittenberg to keep the Tartans off the field and scoreboard.

Trine (6-0, 3-0 MIAA) at Hope (2-5, 2-1), Saturday, 2 p.m.: The last two schools to win outright Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships could decide who brings the hardware home on Saturday. Trine is in the driver’s seat, having not lost a game this season, but an upset by Hope would potentially give four MIAA teams one loss in conference play.

If Hope were to win, Albion and Kalamazoo would join the Flying Dutchmen in the conference race and bid for an  NCAA Tournament invitation.

Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

2012-14 columnist: Brian Lester
2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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