CHICAGO – An improbable sequence of three-straight game-altering plays proved the difference on Saturday afternoon, as the University of Chicago football team owned the fourth quarter in a 35-21 victory against Lake Forest College.
The Maroons concluded their season at home on the Stagg Field turf with a 6-3 overall record. The Foresters fell to 7-3.
On a cold day with temperatures in the upper 30s, it turned out offenses would have their way in the first half. Lake Forest ate up seven-and-a-half minutes of game clock on the opening possession, which ended with a five-yard touchdown run. UChicago responded in kind with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive of its own. Senior quarterback Marco Cobian completed all eight of his passes in that time, ultimately finding junior running back Mike Martinson for a 17-yard touchdown pass to tie the game up at 7-7.
The home team's second drive was just as lucrative. This time 14 plays produced 75 yards and seven points. On third-and-goal, Cobian connected with wide-open senior wide receiver Dante Nepa for a two-yard touchdown.
The Foresters came up with the equalizer immediately after to make it 14-14. Good starting field position and a 27-yard run set up a 12-yard touchdown pass.
UChicago looked poised to go into the break with the lead. Cobian marched the team into the red zone with six completions. But on third down, he was picked off at the one-yard line.
With the commencement of the third quarter, the Maroons got the ball back and marched into the LFC red zone once again. The visitors proved tough once more, breaking up a pass on fourth down. A series of punts ensued, and the third quarter remained scoreless.
However, the Maroon magic appeared once the fourth quarter got underway. LFC's quarterback took off to his left on third down and senior linebacker Henry Winebrake's tackle forced a fumble that was recovered by junior defensive end Ross Martin at UChicago's 19-yard line. Three plays later, Cobian was flushed out of the pocket and rolled right. Throwing on the move, the senior found sophomore wide receiver Mark Eaton uncovered in LFC territory. Eaton hauled in the heave with two defenders hot on his trail. A would-be tackler lunged at him at the 25-yard line, but Eaton deftly spun out of the tackle, reversed direction and reach the end zone for a 76-yard touchdown.
The very next play from scrimmage, UChicago executed a perfect flea flicker for a 38-yard touchdown connection from Cobian to Nepa. In the span of those three plays, the Maroons leapt ahead 28-14.
But that was not all. The Foresters drove deep into UChicago territory, only to have first-year safety Jason Heine making a diving interception in the end zone. The Maroons took over on their own 20-yard line and proceeded to run the ball 11-straight times for 80 yards. Martinson provided the capper by sprinting down the left sideline for a 30-yard score.
Lake Forest scored once more in the final minutes of the game. The Maroons then ran out the clock from there to clinch the 35-21 win.
UChicago gained 26 first downs and ran 84 offensive plays compared to 14 first downs and 51 plays for LFC. The Maroons converted 61 percent on third down to keep the chains moving. All told, the home team outgained the visitors 506-294.
Cobian closed out his collegiate career completing 28 of 38 passes for 303 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Nepa was the main recipient with seven receptions for 88 yards and two scores. Nepa's 26 career touchdown receptions place him third in UChicago history. Eaton compiled eight receptions for 86 yards and a TD. Sophomore wide receiver Matt Quaglia grabbed three passes for 46 yards.
Martinson scored twice, rushed the ball 19 times for 106 yards and caught four passes for 21 yards. Sophomore running back Nicholas D'Ambrose added 56 rushing yards.
Defensively, the Maroons racked up five tackles for loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception. Junior defensive tackle Jackson Ross made a team-high 10 tackles with one sack. Junior defensive back Daniel Cho was active all over the field with nine stops. Winebrake posted eight tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble.