Strong Defensive Effort Leads CMS Football to 14-3 Win over Northwestern (Minn.)

Strong Defensive Effort Leads CMS Football to 14-3 Win over Northwestern (Minn.)

CLAREMONT, Calif. - Senior quarterback Brenden Brown threw nine-yard touchdown passes to both tight ends (Zach Heffernan and Nick Parise) and the defense was a crossbar away from a shutout as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team took a 14-3 win over Northwestern (Minn.) in 100-degree heat on Saturday afternoon at Zinda Field.

With the win, the Stags move to 1-1 on the young season after dropping a more offensively-oriented affair last weekend to Puget Sound 45-35. Northwestern falls to 0-2 with the loss. 

Junior running back Garrett Cheadle was a workhorse in the hot conditions, carrying 29 times for 155 yards on the day. Brown was effective in relief of sophomore starter Jake Norville, completing six of his 14 passes for two touchdowns while running a conservative offense to protect the lead with the Stags defense looking dominant. CMS held Northwestern to only 163 yards of total offense and allowed only three points on a 46-yard field goal from Josiah Donat on the final play of the half, which hit off the crossbar and tumbled over to make the score 7-3 at the break. 

Senior linebacker Mitchell Allan led the defense in tackles for the second straight week with seven, including three for losses. Junior linebacker Connor Lehner added six tackles (three for losses), and freshman cornerback Benjamin Cooney had four tackles and his first collegiate interception. Sophomore defensive back Cade Moffatt added an interception in the first half in the end zone to deny the Eagles their only significant attempt at scoring without the aid of Donat's leg. 

Allan felt holding the Eagles to three points was the result of a true team effort on the defensive side of the ball.  "When we play as a team, we're a really good team," he said. "Everyone was doing their job, and that's what football's about. When all 11 people are doing their job, you're going to get a good team every single time." 

The Stags broke a scoreless deadlock with 52 seconds in the half, as Brown rolled out on 3rd-and-goal from the nine-yard line and found Heffernan breaking towards the sideline at about the three. Heffernan made the grab, and turned his momentum up the field and into the end zone as a Northwestern defender tried in vain to tackle him short of the line. It was the second straight week that Heffernan had caught a touchdown pass, after also scoring on a 40-yard catch and run last week against Puget Sound. 

Cooney's interception then set up the second scoring play, as he picked the ball off on the Northwestern 47-yard line and returned it 25 yards. With a short 22-yard field to work with, Cheadle rushed for 13 yards on two carries to put the ball on the nine, and Brown then found Parise open in the left side of the end zone for his second touchdown pass of the day. It was also the second straight week that Parise has caught a touchdown pass, after he also pulled in the first scoring play of the season last weekend. 

The defense had one more big stand after a CMS turnover gave the Eagles the ball on the Stags' 30-yard line. On 3rd-and-four from the 13, Moffatt came up with a big tackle in the backfield for a loss of three, and Donat's field goal attempt missed wide right with 3:21 left in the third. 

CMS did most of its damage on the ground, tallying 212 yards rushing out of its 271 yards of total offense. In addition to the big day from Cheadle, sophomore Jordan Leonard provided eight carries for 42 yards in a supporting role. Northwestern threw the ball 27 times, but completed only nine and managed just 78 passing yards. 

Cheadle said that the conditions were tough, but the team's depth was important to the win. "We were all tired," Cheadle said. "We were hydrating, but it was still 100 degrees out, so we had to cycle through everyone. And the defense was huge; we really stepped up on the defensive side of the ball today."

The hot conditions and some injuries meant that the Stags had to utilize their depth to get the win, and Allan felt that was fitting of the team culture. "Our mentality is that we trust the next guy on the depth chart just as much as the first guy," said Allan. "That's what makes it a team. That's why we always say "Stag Love", because everyone loves each other just as much and we're all ready to step in and make a difference."

The Stags return to action next weekend for a road game at Pacific Lutheran, beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.