W&J withstands 303-yard rushing effort in win over CMU
There’s usually not reason for worry when a team’s quarterback throws four touchdown passes and its running back rushes for 231 yards.
But Washington & Jefferson coach Mike Sirianni left Carnegie Mellon’s Gesling Stadium on Saturday with many concerns about his 14th-ranked squad, especially the run defense.
Despite allowing a school-record performance by CMU sophomore running back Sam Benger, W&J (3-0, 1-0 Presidents’ Athletic Conference) defeated the Tartans, 38-14. Benger rushed for 303 yards, and CMU finished with 341.
“There is something missing with our team from the team last year,” Sirianni said. “It shows you can’t carry over wins from one year to the next.
“As a head coach, it’s my job to figure it out and fix it quickly. We’re not playing like a top-20 team.”
W&J quarterback Pete Coughlin (Upper St. Clair) tossed four touchdown passes, and running back Ryan Ruffing (Thomas Jefferson) rushed for a career-high 231 yards and a score. Ruffing’s 38 rushing attempts also were a career high.
Coughlin hit Daniel Lis (Chartiers-Houston) with a 5-yard touchdown to tie the score 7-7, and Coughlin hit Jesse Zubik (Avonworth) with a 75-yard score on the final play of the first quarter for a 14-7 lead.
His other two touchdown passes went to Imani Christian graduate Eric Scott (15 and 12 yards) on the same play call.
“Eric tells me what type of athlete he is and that he can outjump anyone,” Coughlin said. “So I threw it up to him, and he made the plays.”
The first touchdown pass to Scott gave W&J a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. Coughlin finished 27 of 40 for 308 yards, and W&J outgained CMU, 594-399.
Benger was the reason CMU kept it close into the third quarter. He scored on a 51-yard run to give CMU a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and an 85-yard dash to cut a W&J lead to 21-14 in the second quarter.
He also had a 46-yard run in the first quarter and a 66-yard run in the third. He broke the school mark of 207 yards held by Mike Monsilovich (Sept. 29, 1998, against Alfred) in the first half.
“The record is nice, but I’d rather have the win,” Benger said. “We felt we could run on them because of their defensive front. The offensive line did a great job of getting key blocks, and it made it easy. I was running to daylight.”
Ruffing added a 37-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Scott caught his second touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
“W&J was the better team, and they deserved to win,” CMU coach Rich Lackner said. “We had opportunities both in the first half and second half. You have to be efficient in the red zone. The interception in the first quarter hurt us. It went off our kid’s hands. We had the momentum and the lead.”
W&J linebacker Ryan Torrance picked off the deflected pass at the W&J 35.