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College Football

Carnegie Mellon Football Earns Berth in Division III Playoffs, Wins PAC Title

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As the winner of the President’s Athletic Conference (PAC) this season, Carnegie Mellon qualified for the 2021 Division III Football Playoffs. With a first-round matchup against reigning Division III national champion North Central (Ill.) on the slate, the Tartans have a tough road ahead.

With an 8-2 (8-1 conference) record in a very, very competitive PAC, the Tartans rattled off seven consecutive after starting the season 1-2 with losses to Whitworth and Grove City to earn a berth.

With a head-to-head win over Westminster, despite being co-PAC champions, the Tartans earned the automatic qualifying spot in the Division II playoffs.

In legendary head coach Rich Lackner’s final regular-season game before his retirement at the end of the season, the Tartans defeated rival Case Western Reserve, 24-6, to earn the first playoff berth in 15 seasons.

With 226 wins, 12 conference titles and two NCAA playoff appearances, Lackner is the greatest coach in program history. And he’ll be ending his nearly 40 year career at Carnegie Mellon with a chance at making even more history.

With No. 1 North Central hosting the Tartans on Saturday afternoon, it’ll be a very tough matchup against a team that hasn’t lost since Oct. 5, 2019, and was only challenged once this season.

The Tartans averaged 30.5 points per game this season, led by a strong rushing attack, while the Carnegie Mellon defense limited opposing offenses to just 8.7 points and under 250 yards of offense per game.

Sophomore Tre Vasiliadas fuels the Tartans’ offense, running for 1,120 yards and 16 touchdowns on just 206 carries this season. Sophomore Ben Mills conducted the offense this season, throwing for 1,335 yards and nine touchdowns (to four interceptions) on 89-of-185 passing attempts.

Senior Kris Hughes and sophomores Ethan Reifer, Alex Javier and Kaveh Wotjowich all racked up at least 280 receiving yards this season.

Twin sophomores Robert and Thomas Coury lead the way defensively for the Tartans, with Robert accumulating 82 tackles (38 solo) and Thomas racking up 59 tackles (29 solo). The brothers have combined for six sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and recovery, two interceptions, 10 pass break ups and a blocked kick.

Junior Ben Coyne leads the Tartans with 6.5 sacks and seven more tackles for loss while senior Sean Knight’s five interceptions lead the team — although, the Tartans’ 19 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles showcase a playmaking defense.

Carnegie Mellon’s Top 5 scoring defense will clash with Central’s top-scoring offense (59.7 points per game) that averages just under 600 yards per game (311 on the ground and 277 through the air).

North Central’s defense is no slouch either, allowing just a tick under 11 points per game this season.

Kickoff at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville, Illinois is scheduled for noon on Saturday. The winner will advance to a second round matchup against the winner of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Albion.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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