OBERLIN, Ohio – Sophomore quarterback Billy Beecher (Palmyra, Pa./Palmyra Area) threw a three-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Bryan Erb (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Country Day) in overtime as the Case Western Reserve University football team closed out its 2012 non-conference schedule with a 24-17 win at Oberlin College on a rainy and windy Saturday afternoon at Savage Stadium.
The Spartans improve to 4-3 overall and have won 28 contests in a row versus the Yeomen. Oberlin drops to 2-5.
Beecher's first career touchdown pass capped the visitor's possession of the overtime period. Oberlin's chance to tie the game was then stopped short on fourth down when senior linebacker Kevin Nossem (Munster, Ind./Munster) made the game-winning tackle following a Yeomen pass completion to the Spartan one-yard line.
Making his first career start, Beecher threw for 60 yards and rushed for another 51, while Erb hauled in team bests of five receptions and 48 yards. Senior linebacker Ryan Ferguson (Wheaton, Ill./St. Francis) led a clutch Spartan defensive effort with a career-high 19 tackles and an interception.
Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives, but Case Western Reserve took its second possession 42 yards on 10 plays and got on the board when freshman placekicker Won Kun Park (Daejon, South Korea/Kimball Union Academy, N.H.) booted a career-best 37-yard field goal with 7:04 remaining in the first quarter.
The next Spartan possession took on a similar identity with an 11-play, 53-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Manny Sicre (Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit Preparatory). Park hit the extra point to make the score 10-0 with five seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Yeomen came right back on the following drive and marched 67 yards on six plays as running back Moses Richardson rushed into the endzone from two yards out. Alex Wagman hit the PAT to bring the score to 10-7 with 12:07 remaining in the first half. Richardson posted carries of 11 and 13 yards on the drive.
After forcing Case to punt on the ensuing drive, Oberlin marched once again to tie the score as Wagman nailed a 42-yard field goal with 48 seconds left before half. The hosts started the possession on their own two and amassed 73 yards on 15 plays.
The Spartans then ran out the clock as the game went to halftime tied at 10-10.
The opening drive of the second half resulted in an interception by Oberlin safety Shawn Chrapczynski. The Yeomen then hit a pair of big pass plays and reached the Spartan 26. However, senior defensive end Adam Watson (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) broke through the line and picked up a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered by senior nose guard Michael Harris (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights) at 10:05 of the third quarter.
The game then went scoreless until the early portion of the fourth quarter as a fourth-and-one for the Spartans resulted in a 30-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Erik Olson (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) to sophomore wide out Sean Lapcevic (Presto, Pa./Chartiers Valley) with 10:41 left on the clock. The Spartan drive covered 65 yards on nine plays, and Park hit the PAT to make the score 17-10.
Undaunted, Oberlin came right back with a 10-play, 72-yard drive that culminated in a nine-yard TD pass from Mandel to wide receiver Dan Weintraub. Wagman hit his second PAT to tie the score with 5:43 left to play.
After a Spartan punt, Oberlin drove to the visitor 47 before Ferguson stepped in front of a screen pass for his first interception of the season. Several drives later, Oberlin pieced together a seven-play drive to the Spartan 21 and had an opportunity to win the game, but Wagman's 39-yard field goal attempt with just five seconds left sailed wide left.
The Spartans lost the overtime coin toss, but took the first drive of extra time 25 yards for the win. In addition to Beecher's winning strike to Erb, Olson also hit a key 12-yard pass on third down to Sicre to extend the drive.
Olson, who came into the game questionable with an injury, completed 7-of-14 pass attempts for 95 yards. Sicre also returned from injury and gained 51 yards on the ground with another 34 through the air.
In addition to Ferguson's 19-tackle performance, Nossem and junior safety Jordan Banky (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) each recorded nine stops.
Oberlin was led by Mandel, who completed 20-of-31 passes for 237 yards. Richardon rushed for a game-high 103 yards, while wide receiver Robin Witjes caught nine passes for 111 yards.
The Spartans begin defense of their University Athletic Association Championship next Saturday, October 27 at rival University of Chicago (Ill.) at 1:00 p.m. (CDT) at Stagg Field in the "Windy City." Case Western Reserve was 3-0 in UAA play last season and has won four of the past five league titles.