College football: Pioneers to kick off Andy Waddle era Saturday night

Andy Waddle will be making his Marietta College head football coaching debut when the Pioneers play Case Western Reserve at Case Field in Cleveland in a season opening, non-conference game Saturday at 7 p.m.

The former Wittenberg University defensive coordinator is hoping to help MC return a favor.

A year ago at Don Drumm Stadium, Jeff Filkovski-coached Marietta had the visiting Spartans on the ropes early but ended up dropping a 26-23 decision. The Pioneers never really recovered from that setback as they went on to finish the 2012 campaign winless at 0-10.

MC led Greg Debeljak-coached Case Western Reserve 10-0 at the end of one on quarterback Tom Fulton’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Kirby Harris and Conor Durina’s 20-yard field goal. But in the middle quarters, the Pioneers went scoreless, and the visitors from Cleveland slowly but surely whittled away at the deficit.

At halftime, the score was 10-all, and in the third quarter, the Spartans scored two TDs to take a 23-10 lead.

Early in the fourth period, Case stretched its advantage to 16 on a field goal.

Marietta rallied late on two touchdown throws by Fulton, but it turned out to be too little, too late.

Fulton finished with 333 passing yards, completing 21 of 37 throws. His primary receiver was Tannon Roberts, who had six catches for 142 yards. Harris added six receptions for 109 yards.

The Pioneers’ leading ground gainer rushed for only 31 yards, and that may have been one of the differences in the ballgame.

The Spartans, meanwhile, had two ballcarriers – Kenny Riordan and Manny Sicre – combine for 240 yards on 34 carries. Both Riordan and Sicre are expected back for this season.

Also expected to return is Case quarterback Erik Olson, who threw for 196 yards and one TD against the Pioneers.

Case Western Reserve enjoyed a balanced attack in its 2012 season opener.

Marietta’s defense will be spearheaded by All-Ohio Athletic Conference honoree Jake Hammer. The senior linebacker led the Pioneers with 115 total tackles last season.

Harris and Roberts were also All-OAC honorees last season.