PITTSBURGH, PA -- Carnegie Mellon quarterback Jarrod Highberger completed nine-of-12 passing attempts for 251 yards including scoring strikes of 83, 26 and 31 yards as the Tartans handed Franklin & Marshall College its first loss of the season 31-14 in non-conference Division III football action.
Overall, the Tartans balanced offense of 221 rushing yards and 251 passing yards was too much for the Diplomats as Carnegie Mellon rolled up 472 yards of total offense, including 106 yards on the ground by tailback Travis Sivek.
For the Diplomats, starting quarterback Jeff Harner (So., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) completed eight-of-13 passing attempts for 107 yards, including a 20 yard pass to Robert Donofrio (So., Sea Girt, NJ/Wall Township) with 9:14 left in the first quarter to cap a six play, 55 yard drive for a 7-0 lead.
The Tartans answered with 4:20 left in the first quarter as Sivek scampered four yards for a touchdown to close out an 11 play, 60 yard drive. Carnegie Mellon took the lead for good with 11:10 left in the second quarter as Highberger hit Matt Dalka on the first play from scrimmage at the Carnegie Mellon 17 yard line for an 83 yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Franklin & Marshall attempted to knot the score at 14-14 prior to halftime as backup quarterback Doug Hiltner (Sr., Margate, NJ/Atlantic City) entered the game and led the Diplomats from their own 20 yard line down to the Carnegie Mellon 15 for a first down with nearly two minutes left on the clock. However, three straight incomplete passes brought up fourth down and out the field goal unit as a pass attempt to Matt Capone (Sr., Scarsdale, NY/Scarsdale) by holder Kyle Turner (Fr., Haddonfield, NJ/Haddonfield) on a fake field goal was intercepted by Jarrod Mock in the endzone with 10 seconds left in the half.
In the second half, the Tartans increased the lead to 17-7 as Neil Stegall hit a 27 yard field goal for CMU to close out a seven play, 26 yard drive following a 37 yard punt by F&M kicker Dan Eggertsson (Sr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) which Mock returned 44 yards to the F&M 35.
The Tartans repeated the feat on their next possession as Eggertsson punted 52 yards to the CMU 33, but Adam Lovrovich returned the kick 14 yards to the Carnegie Mellon 47. Highberger then went to work as he engineered a seven play, 53 yard drive capped by a 26 yard pass to Jon Cakert for a 24-7 lead with 6:24 left in the quarter.
Franklin & Marshall's misfortune continued on their next possession as Hiltner drove the Diplomats from their own 22 to the Carnegie Mellon 31 before defensive tackle Mike Burnside picked off a pass at the CMU 35 to close out F&M's last scoring chance of the quarter.
Starting at their own 31, the Tartans attempted to ice the game prior to the fourth quarter as Highberger led CMU to a second down and goal at the Franklin & Marshall goal-line with seconds left on the clock. On second down, Sivek attempted to break through the pile, but Mickey Rehring (Fr., Harrison, TN/State College) and TJ Scanlon (Jr., Avon, NJ/Red Bank Catholic) drove him back for no gain as the horn sounded to end the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Sivek attempted to leap over the pile as Paul Fields (Fr., Bergenfield, NJ/Bergenfield) and Chris Santaniello (So., Somers Point, NJ/Mainland) dropped the back for no gain. Facing fourth-and-goal, the Tartans attempted to have Sivek break the goal-line once again, but Scanlon and George Farrell (Fr., Hatfield, PA/North Penn) dropped him at the line once again to give the ball back to F&M with 14:11 left on the game clock.
However, the Diplomats could move the ball no further than their own 13 yard line as Eggertsson punted to the CMU 43 where Lovrovich returned the kick 26 yards to the F&M 31 to set the Tartans up in Diplomats' territory.
Carnegie Mellon needed just one play to capitalize on the field position as Highberger hit Ryan Neupaver for a 31 yard touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 12:05 left to go in the game.
Franklin & Marshall again attempted to close the gap as Hiltner drove the blue and white down to the Carnegie Mellon 10 yard line for a first down.
Following back-to-back-to-back incomplete passes, Hiltner connected with EJ Leary (Jr., Seymour, CT/Seymour) for a 10-yard touchdown completion for the 31-14 final as the senior quarterback finished the day 11-of-28 for 165 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
On defense, linebacker John Warnick (So., Rockville, MD/Good Counsel) led the Diplomats with 11 tackles, while linebacker Joe Locastro (Jr., Cherry Hill, NJ/Camden Catholic) and defensive back Ryan Sychterz (Jr., Sinking Spring, PA/Holy Name) each added eight tackles. For CMU, Ryan Moloney, Nate Scarmazzi and Adam Wirth each tallied six tackles to lead the Tartans efforts as Carnegie Mellon held F&M to 399 yards of total offense, including 109 rushing yards.
Franklin & Marshall (3-1, 0-0 Centennial Conference) will open the Centennial Conference season next weekend at Muhlenberg College. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.