Football records first home win of the season in a commanding performance against Carthage
Early in the third quarter, graduate student quarterback Matt Rush had just been sacked for a loss of 11 yards, bringing the Washington University football team to 4th and 26 at Carthage University’s 30-yard line. On the sideline, the Bears’ special teams was ready to enter the field for a field goal attempt. But there was one problem: Rush insisted that he and the offensive team remain on the field and go for the touchdown, possibly risking a turnover on downs.
“Coach, leave me in!” he said.
After a pause, Rush ran back on the field, and the ball was quickly snapped. As he had done all Saturday afternoon, he wasted no time in finding junior wide receiver Collin Goldberg for a 30-yard touchdown to help the Bears continue where they left off in the second half.
“I love [Rush’s] passion for wanting to play,” WashU football head coach Aaron Keen said. “He knew we had some advantages in the secondary.”
This Saturday, the Bears won their first home match of the season against Carthage with a scoreline of 38-7. With the win, the Bears improved their season record to 3-0. The main highlight of the game was Goldberg’s record-setting 97-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Both offensively and defensively, the Bears showed up. Rush finished the game with 331 passing yards, accompanied by three touchdown passes.
On defense, the Bears had what Goldberg described as “the best game [they] played defensively,” as they held Carthage to 169 passing yards and 66 rushing yards
“I’m… happy with the win,” Keen said. “I told the guys after the game that I’ve coached long enough that I appreciate wins. It’s hard to win in college football. In the same way I am —and I think everybody on our rosters is —a little disappointed with the way we played. We were a little sloppy at times, we didn’t play our best football, and that’s our goal each week. We have a standard that we want to play to and that’s our team this year.”
In a game that was won comfortably by the Bears, it didn’t take the Bears too long to put themselves on the scoreboard.
In the 8th minute of the first quarter, WashU found itself in its own territory at 3rd and 4. Upon the ball snap, Rush found himself in jeopardy as the Bears’ offensive line was breached. In an attempt to avoid a sack and find an open man, Rush rushed to his left side, only to find himself surrounded by four Carthage defenders ready to sack him. But in a Mahomes-esque way, Rush escaped and ran to his right side, finding a wide-open Goldberg for a 52-yard touchdown.
“I’m happy with the performance,” Goldberg said. “But I mean, there’s always room to improve. There are a couple routes that I could have ran better conceptually or I could have helped out. But I am happy with my performance and a big win.”
The junior from Atlanta, Georgia had himself a day. He finished the game with six receptions, 194 receiving yards, and three touchdowns.
From that moment, the Bears would unleash both their defense and offense to continue dominating the game. On offense, Rush would go on to throw another touchdown to bring the scoreline to 14-0. Defensively, the Bears then forced a fumble at the Carthage 3-yard line, which was snagged by sophomore outside linebacker Salomon Dessalines for a 3-yard touchdown — his second score of the season.
Coming into the second half, WashU possessed a healthy lead that it could build on. Rush would throw a 30-yard touchdown to Goldberg on a 4th and 26 conversion.
“In full transparency, we were just trying to delay [the] game and get a little more yardage to punt,” Keen said. “But [Carthage] gave us a man-coverage look where we knew we had a shot, and so we took it. We’re good enough on the outside at receiver and good enough at quarterback that if somebody gives us those opportunities, we’d like to think like we’re going to.”
But the Bears weren’t done just yet. Just a few minutes after its touchdown, the team scored one of WashU’s greatest touchdowns. In an incredible defensive effort, the Bears stopped Carthage at WashU’s 4-yard line, forcing a turnover on downs. Despite their defensive success, the Bears were hit with a false start penalty after their first snap, pushing them back 2 yards.
“So we had a false start earlier in that drive,” Goldberg said. “We looked at each other when we came over to the sideline after that, and they were playing man coverage. We could keep trying to run for a couple yards, but we might as well take a deep shot. So I kind of knew going into that play what [it] was going to be and as soon as I saw the ball in there, I knew [we were going deep].”
Despite the false start, the Bears stayed focused. In their second snap of the play, Rush threw a rocket of a pass to the junior for a 97-yard touchdown, breaking the program record for the longest touchdown pass. According to the Athletic Department, the previous record was 94 yards, set in both 1994 and 2018. The Bears would extend their lead to 38-7.
Despite the win, both Keen and Goldberg stated that the Bears didn’t play their best game. Keen attributes this to having several players sidelined due to injuries and sickness. But nevertheless, the football coach talked about how in a season like this, it’s all about the process — taking it one week at a time and learning from mistakes.
“[With this win], we’re hopefully building momentum, and I don’t know if we necessarily built momentum today,” Keen said. “There are things that we have to correct. We’re like every football team in America right now where you’re dealing with sickness, you’re dealing with injury, you’re dealing with new players coming in and getting new roles. So I don’t know if we necessarily played the way we’re capable of playing, but we’ll have to figure out why that is. And we’ll have to correct those things moving forward. And that’s going to be the biggest challenge.”
“It was kind of a tough week with practice and stuff,” Goldberg said. “We had some dudes dealing with some injuries from sickness and stuff, but to be able to come in, win 38-7, it’s a good game. I’m happy about it.”
The Bears will gear up again this Saturday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m. to face North Park University on Francis Olympic Field.