CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Case Western Reserve University football team jumped out to a 17-0 first-quarter lead and held off a late comeback attempt to defeat The College of Wooster, 31-28, in the final annual installment of the Baird Brothers' Trophy Game on Saturday afternoon at Case Field.
The Spartans even their record at 3-3 heading into a bye week, while Wooster falls to 1-4 with its sixth-straight loss to Case Western Reserve.
Case put 17 unanswered points on the board in the first quarter starting with a 26-yard field goal from freshman kicker Won Kun Park (Daejon, South Korea/Kimball Union Academy, N.H.) at the 11:49 mark. Just over seven minutes later, senior quarterback Erik Olson (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) connected with sophomore wide receiver Sean Lapcevic (Presto, Pa./Chartiers Valley) for a nine-yard touchdown pass that capped off a seven play, 66-yard drive at 4:45.
Following a Wooster fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Olson connected with freshman wideout Bryan Erb (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Country Day) on a 22-yard strike. Park tacked on his second PAT, and the Spartans led 17-0 with 3:50 in the opening period.
Wooster got its first points at 12:28 of the second quarter when running back John Battaglia punched in a one-yard run to cap a 13-play, 69-yard drive. However, Olson and the Spartans produced the third aerial score of the half when the senior hooked up with classmate Brian Rice (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) for a 17-yard strike with 10:49 left before the break. Park's third PAT capped a quick, four-play, 73-yard drive for the hosts.
The lead stood until the end of the first stanza when the Fighting Scots orchestrated a five-play, 48-yard drive that ended in a Richard Barnes to Zack Weidrick 30-yard TD pass with 20 seconds remaining, bringing the score to 24-14.
Out of the halftime break, Case took its opening drive and marched 72 yards in six plays as freshman running back Ezra Kim (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman) scampered into the endzone from three yards out. The TD was the first of Kim's career and was followed by another Park PAT that gave the Spartans a 17-point edge with 11:33 left.
Trailing 31-14, Wooster tallied 14 unanswered points as Barnes hooked up with Jordan McIntyre for TD passes of seven and 41 yards at 4:44 of the third quarter and 9:01 of the fourth. Tyler Gerwing finished each drive with successful extra point attempts, and Case led by only three.
However, the Spartan defense made a key stop on the following Wooster drive as Barnes tossed an incomplete pass on fourth-and-one at the Case 38 with 5:55 left on the clock. Wooster's final drive resulted in a punt deep in its own territory, and the Spartans ran out the final 2:32 to secure their third win of 2012.
Individually, Olson completed 12-of-26 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Ricky Hanzlik (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) led the Spartan running attack with a career-high 77 yards on 18 carries, while sophomore quarterback Billy Beecher (Palmyra, Pa./Palmyra) rushed 12 times for a career-high 73 yards. Through the air for Case, Lapcevic snatched a team-high five receptions for 93 yards and a score, while Rice had four catches for a career-best 95 yards and a TD.
Defensively, senior defensive end Adam Watson (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) and senior linebackers Kevin Nossem (Munster, Ind./Munster) and Ryan Ferguson (Wheaton, Ill./St. Francis) led all players with 13 tackles apiece. Senior linebacker Wade Self (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) also posted double-figures in stops with 11, while Watson recorded Case's lone sack.
Wooster was led by Barnes who went 19-of-32 through the air for 213 yards and three scores. McIntyre led the Fighting Scots with eight receptions for 90 yards and two scores, while Battaglia had 77 yards on 21 carries.
The annual series between Case Western Reserve and Wooster, which dates back to 1984, ends with the Fighting Scots holding a 13-12 lead.
The Baird Brothers' Trophy was introduced during the inaugural meeting between the two schools by Bob Baird, an economics professor at Case, and Bill Baird, an economics professor at Wooster. The brothers incorporated their passion for fishing into the rivalry by rewarding the winning team each season with a golden fishing stringer with carved brass fish representing each meeting. This year's meeting marked the final annual installment as the University Athletic Association and North Coast Athletic Conference football scheduling agreement expires. Wooster will begin playing a complete NCAC round robin schedule, while Case Western Reserve joins the Presidents' Athletic Conference as an affiliate member in 2014.
Following a bye week, the Spartans wrap up the non-conference portion of the 2012 schedule at Oberlin College at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 20.