CMU falls short in high-scoring matchup
Allegheny coach Mark Matlak stood on the turf at Carnegie Mellon's Gesling Stadium in the aftermath of the Gators' 38-35 victory Saturday and savored his latest return to Pittsburgh.
Matlak, a Chartiers Valley High School product who played running back at Allegheny, also was glad to be leaving as a winner after recalling the Gators' 27-point home loss to CMU last season.
The margin of victory on this day didn't matter, so long as his team came out on top.
"I like the games when we're one point better than the other team," he said.
T.J. Salopek passed for 211 yards and three touchdowns, and Brian Tamburlin rushed for 132 yards and scored once to lead Allegheny (4-1) past CMU (4-2) in an NCAA Division III nonconference game.
The loss kept CMU from securing its 35th consecutive non-losing season. Since 1975, the Tartans have produced winning records in all but three seasons, finishing .500 in 2002, '05 and '08.
Carnegie Mellon coach Rich Lackner, the school's all-time winningest coach, has seen the majority of those seasons. His 24-year record is 165-71-2.
"Today was not a typical game for us. We usually do a better job defensively," said Lackner, a Mt. Lebanon High School product who played linebacker at CMU during the same time Matlak attended Allegheny.
Four games remain on CMU's schedule, and the Tartans need one victory to assure themselves of a .500 mark.
Both coaches faced each other regularly as players in high school and college.
"Give Allegheny credit today," Lackner said. "They deserve it."
The score reflected a close outcome, as did the difference in total yards of offense, where Allegheny edged CMU, 381-365.
CMU led at halftime, 14-10, but fell behind, 24-14, when Allegheny scored on a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. Salopek (Norwin) threw a 13-yard pass to Rob Carlisle, and Tamburlin rushing for 17 yards.
A trick play pulled CMU within 24-21 with 4:52 left in the third. Wide receiver Brendon Howe took a pitch from quarterback Phil Pantalone and fired a 62-yard scoring strike to Chris Garcia.
When Pantalone passed 8 yards to Zach Gallup for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, CMU was back on top, 31-28.
But Allegheny quickly regained control. Jake Vite's one-handed grab resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Salopek, who then passed 56 yards to Terry Hartford (Fox Chapel) for a touchdown, giving the Gators a 38-28 advantage with 5:55 remaining.
Pantalone and Gallup hooked up once more for CMU on a 3-yard scoring pass with 3:35 to go, pulling the Tartans within 38-35.
CMU gained one more chance to score, following Ray Johnson's recovery of a Salopek fumble on fourth-and-1 at the CMU 27. But Chase Stelzer's interception gave Allegheny possession again, and the Gators ran out the clock.
The high-scoring affair surprised both coaches.
"With our struggles on offense (16.2 ppg.) and with the way they've been running the ball effectively (211.8 ypg.), I didn't expect a high-scoring game," Matlak said.
"I don't know if I was expecting a high-scoring game, but I was expecting a close game," Lackner said.
Salopek completed 19 of 28 passes for Allegheny, whose only loss is to No. 10 Wabash. Pantalone completed 15 of 20 passes and also threw for three touchdowns. He was sacked four times.
Allegheny scored first on a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Zipf (Seneca Valley). Pantalone's 3-yard touchdown pass to Howe made it 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Freshman running back Jake Nardone (Beaver Area), the WPIAL's leading rusher in 2008, gave CMU a 14-3 lead on a 9-yard touchdown run before Salopek's 1-yard keeper closed the margin to 14-10 at halftime.