Football upsets Carnegie Mellon at home

Hoping to make their last home game of 2012 memorable, the Washington University football team brought the heat against Carnegie Mellon University this weekend, making the game into a physical showdown and holding a tight 9-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

With six minutes left on the clock, the Red and Green’s offense knew that it had a chance to seal the game for good. On a crucial third and eight at Carnegie Mellon’s 43-yard line, junior quarterback Eric Daginella dropped back and threw a 43-yard touchdown pass on a bubble screen to sophomore wide receiver Ryan Lubatkin, giving the Bears a 15-3 lead and sealing their third win of the season.

“It felt great to get that win for the seniors,” junior defensive back Tate Byers said. “We all look to them as great leaders and role models. They fought as hard as they could each and every game, and they inspired people around them…a great game for the team.”

After a win last week against Denison University, the Bears improved their overall record to 3-5 and gave Wash. U. a 1-0 record in the University Athletic Association. While winning has helped strengthen the team’s confidence, head coach Larry Kindbom believes his team has been showing more of its full potential both physically and mentally in the past few weeks.

“There were a lot of neat things in this game, and we’ve been getting more each week because of the way we’re improving,” Kindbom said. “We’re still far away from where we can truly be, but our coaches did a great job getting ready for this game. We were definitely ready [to play].”

The biggest play of the game for the Bears came early in the second quarter when the Tartans had the ball at Wash. U.’s one-yard line. What seemed like an inevitable touchdown for Carnegie Mellon turned out to be a huge break for the Red and Green as Tartans running back Zachary Erra-Hernandez fumbled while he was being tackled. Byers reacted quickly and recovered the ball.

“We practice all week very hard for different situations, and this was one of them,” Byers said. “We go all out to try [and] make things happen when it counts.”

Energized by the fumble recovery, Wash. U.’s defense fed off of that excitement for the rest of the game, limiting the Tartans to three points and giving up less than 100 yards on the ground and just 128 yards through the air. In addition, the Bears’ front four pressured the quarterback constantly throughout the game, and eventually junior defensive lineman Seth Wight sacked Tartan’s quarterback Rob Kalkstein and forced another fumble, this one recovered by senior defensive lineman William Small.

“Our whole team stepped up, especially on defense,” Small said. “Everyone stayed patient and everyone did their job. Guys stepped up when they needed to and…we shut them down.”

On offense, Daginella struggled in the first half, throwing two interceptions, but he bounced back in the second half, making the game-sealing touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

“We had that play called earlier in the game,” Daginella said. “Our offensive linemen made their blocks, and Ryan [Lubatkin] made a great play, so I just threw the ball. He broke some tackles and got in for the score…great playing calling by our coach.”

Daginella completed 12 of his 26 attempts for 171 yards and ran 52 yards on nine attempts. Daginella also had plenty of run support from senior and sophomore running backs Chris Castelluccio and Zach Lonneman, respectively, with their total of 105 yards.

“I really didn’t feel that it was my best game,” Daginella said. “I struggled at times but, in the end, everyone stayed behind me and the run game, defense and special teams helped out a lot.”

On special teams, freshman kicker Alex Hallwachs tied the school record for the most field goals kicked in a game. After missing his first field goal attempt from 33 yards in the third quarter, Hallwachs came back strong and made his next three attempts from 33, 46 and 41 yards, all also in the third quarter.

“It looked like the wind might have caught Alex’s first kick,” Byers said. “But he’s been very consistent in practice, and he was able to shake off that miss and step up when we needed him to.”

The Bears look to continue their success in conference next Saturday as they face Case Western Reserve University at 12 p.m. in Cleveland, Ohio.