With an early lead in the Presidents' Athletic Conference up for grabs, Case Western Reserve University defeated Westminster College 21-13 at DiSanto Field in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday night. With the win, the Spartans (4-0, 3-0 PAC) now own sole possession of first place in the PAC. The Titans suffered their first loss of the season and dropped to 4-1 and 3-1 in the PAC.
Most of the game was a defensive struggle, with the Spartans defense leading the way with three turnovers and six sacks against an offensive line that had not allowed one all season. Junior linebacker Travis Johnston led the way for Case Western Reserve with a team-leading 11 tackles and added an interception, a forced fumble, and two pass breakups. Senior defensive end Cameron Brown added 2.5 sacks to his career total, placing him 2.5 behind the program record of 33. Brown also forced two fumbles and registered four tackles for loss. Adding 1.5 sacks, six tackles, four tackles for loss, and a fumble recovery was junior linebacker Joshua Smith. Senior linebacker Isaac Withrow was second on the team with nine tackles and two pass breakups. Also with two pass breakups was junior linebacker Brian Victor, who forced a fumble and added five tackles.
On their opening drive, the Spartans drove down the field and scored an early touchdown. Sophomore running back Donald Day III pushed through the Titans' defense and reached the end zone from three yards out. On the drive, the Spartans completed a key fourth down at the Westminster 25-yard line when sophomore quarterback Drew Saxton found senior wide receiver Ryan Coolidge for a four yard gain. A few plays earlier, Saxton found a wide-open receiver, junior running back Brett Carney, for a 27 yard gain. The Spartans drove 67 yards on 13 plays in just over six minutes to go up 7-0 after an extra point from sophomore kicker Robertson Albrecht.
Saxton finished the game with 301 yards through the air and a touchdown, completing 25 of his 39 passes. It was his seventh career game with over 300 yards passing. He found junior wide receiver Colt Morgan seven times for a total of 103 yards, his third 100 yard receiving game of the season and seventh of his career.
The Spartans' defense dominated in the first half, holding the Titans to just eight yards rushing and 71 total yards for the first two quarters.
Westminster missed a 32-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes to play in the half. A few drives earlier, Case Western Reserve snuffed out a fake punt attempt in the first quarter when a pass fell to the turf near a receiver covered by Victor.
On the team's first drive of the second half, Saxton found junior wide receiver Chase Witte, who broke a tackle and gained 47 yards deep into Westminster territory. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Saxton fumbled the ball on the next play and turned it over to the Titans.
On the ensuing drive, Westminster capitalized and tied the game at 7-7 with seven minutes to play in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Cole Konieczka connected with senior wide receiver Connor Cox for a 42-yard catch-and-run touchdown on a third down play. Konieczka found Cox again for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Titans ahead 13-7 with over a minute to go in the third quarter. Westminster missed the ensuing extra point, a costly miss in the close game.
With over 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Saxton found Morgan on a 31-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score to push the Spartans ahead 14-13. On the drive, Saxton completed two other passes to Morgan, including a 32-yard connection on the second play. The drive was set up by a third down stop from the Spartans' defense, which included a sack by Brown on third down.
On the ensuing drive, the Spartan defense forced another turnover in a big spot. Johnston intercepted a pass at his own 36 and returned it nine yards to give Case Western Reserve possession in the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Spartans capitalized on the turnover, using up six minutes and 24 seconds of clock and nearly adding to their lead. Day rushed for 32 yards on the drive, ending the drive on the Westminster one yard line. Day finished the game with 17 carries, 63 yards, and two touchdowns. Johnston broke up a fourth down pass on the ensuing Westminster possession, giving the Spartans the ball at the Titans' four yard line with under two minutes to play. Day capitalized with a touchdown run on the next play, giving Case Western Reserve a 21-13 lead with 1:41 left in regulation. Case Western Reserve stopped Westminster on their final drive to secure the win.
The Spartans remain home next week as they continue their PAC schedule and host second-place Washington & Jefferson University (4-1, 3-1 PAC) for their annual Homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.