O’Brien’s yardage, TDs speed WU past Chicago
For the second time in the final half of Saturday’s game against the University of Chicago, junior running back Jim O’Brien was free.
He had zipped past the entire Maroons defense and was now in open field, with nothing between him and the end zone.
“I looked back a few times, just to gauge where [the defensive players] were at, just ready to maybe high step or something if they were going to dive,” O’Brien said. “It was just running as fast as I can, really just nothing else, hoping that I could beat them out.”
O’Brien’s run, a 51-yard touchdown with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter, put Washington University on top for good, 31-30. His career-high 163 rushing yards made the difference in a 44-37 rallying win on Senior Day, regaining possession of the Founder’s Cup for the Bears.
“The season hasn’t exactly gone how we planned or wanted it to, but, regardless of the record…if we’re 8-0 coming in or 0-8 coming in to this game, it’s going to be the same just because it’s such a big game for us,” O’Brien said. “We were ready to get that Founder’s Cup back on our side.”
Since the creation of the University Athletic Association in 1987, Wash. U. has faced Chicago annually, marking the very first UAA game. The Bears are 18-6 in the series and 18-10 all-time against the Maroons.
After a 14-yard rushing performance in the first half, the ground unit picked up 284 yards on 20 carries in the second. The Maroons outgained the Bears in total offense, however, 541-418.
O’Brien’s first touchdown of the game came on the Bears’ first possession. His 3-yard touchdown run capped a 10-play, 74-yard drive, highlighted by a 30-yard tailback pass from none other than O’Brien himself.
Chicago tied the game on two plays, ending a drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Marshall Oium. He had 401 passing yards on the day. A Chicago rushing touchdown made the score 13-7 minutes later.
Sophomore linebacker Daniel Sufranski intercepted Oium’s pass one possession later, returning the ball 29 yards to the Chicago 6-yard line. On fourth and goal, the Bears faked a field goal, taking the lead on senior defensive back Bryce Buchanan’s pass to junior linebacker Nick Diehl.
“Our coaches had noticed…that when we line up for field goals, [Chicago] leaves the tight end completely untouched,” Buchanan said. “We figured if we just faked a field goal and had him just run out for a pass, he’d be wide open, and he was.”
Chicago’s fumble at its 3-yard line set up another score. Junior Tim Johnson’s 22-yard field goal gave the Bears a 17-13 lead with 14:05 left in the first half. Two more Chicago touchdowns in the quarter, however, put Wash. U. in a 10-point deficit.
Oium threatened to put his team ahead even further, taking the ball down to the 9-yard line with under a minute in the half, before Buchanan intercepted his pass on second down. Despite the pick, the Maroons took a 27-17 lead into the break.
“We went into halftime and decided that as seniors, that’s not how we wanted to go out,” Buchanan said. “We came out on fire the second half.”
With 4:02 left in the third quarter, O’Brien blew by the Chicago secondary for an 85-yard rushing touchdown. Chicago stretched the score to 30-24 with a 27-yard field goal, but shortly after O’Brien broke for his third score of the game.
“We just kind of had to throw everything out and just get back to the basics,” O’Brien said. “They took it to us in the first half…Nobody wanted to lose like that, to go out on that note back here at home.”
Seniors halfback Greg LaChaud and running back Matt Glenn each had rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter, 59-yard and 1-yard runs, respectively. Glenn’s came with two minutes left in the game, ensuring victory.
“When you have multiple backs [scoring], it usually comes down to the offensive line,” head coach Larry Kindbom said. “They made some good adjustments during the ball game.”
The victory gives the Bears (4-5, 1-1) a shot at a UAA title in the final game of the season next weekend, on Saturday, Nov. 14. A win will not come easy against No. 9 Case Western Reserve University (8-0, 2-0) in Cleveland at noon (ET).
“Case has been undefeated the past couple of seasons going into our game, and we’ve played them [closely]. We’re not going to hold anything back here,” Buchanan said. “We’re going to go up there to Cleveland and see if we can play spoiler and take one away from them.”