Carnegie Mellon defensive end Ben Coyne is proud of his roots.

“I joke with my teammates all the time saying that, ‘You can’t beat the WPIAL’ and ‘Pittsburgh is the best football place,’” said Coyne, a former South Fayette standout. “Western Pa. is where football comes from. Us WPIAL kids have a strong sense of where we’re from and have pride in that, have pride in being from Western Pa., and still playing football in Western Pennsylvania.

“It’s a special bond we have together.”

The Tartans are hoping that bond will continue to pay dividends in 2022 – especially for their defense.

Coyne is joined in the Carnegie Mellon starting lineup by cornerback Adrian Williams, a Peters Township product, and outside linebacker Logan Young of Moon.

The trio is looking to lead Carnegie Mellon (10-0) to a victory against DePauw (9-1) in a first-round NCAA Division III Football Championship playoff game at noon Saturday at Gesling Stadium.

“I always dreamed of as a kid getting the opportunity to be out here and be with some other WPIAL guys and show the country what we are all about,” Williams said. “It is really cool. It’s a really cool opportunity.”

In addition to Coyne, Williams and Young, the Tartans’ roster includes southwestern Pennsylvania-bred players Luke White, a guard from Keystone Oaks; tight end Quinn Murray, Upper St. Clair; outside linebacker Nasir Crownie, Barack Obama Academy; and kicker Justin Caputo, South Fayette.

“We kind of feed off of one another and like to represent where we’re from,” Young said.

The Carnegie Mellon defense will have its hands full in defending its home turf against a potent DePauw rushing attack.

“DePauw is a really good program,” said Tartans coach Ryan Larsen, who led his team to a Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship in his first season at the helm. “When you get to this level, when you get to the tournament, everyone is good. Everyone is a conference champion.”

DePauw has rushed for 2,195 yards, an average of 219.5 per game, this season, which makes the Tigers 24th in the nation on the ground. Junior running back Gus Baumgartner is DePauw’s leading rusher with 776 yards and 10 touchdowns on 148 carries.

“From their standpoint offensively, they do a lot of stuff in the run game, a lot of things that play off of each other,” Larsen said. “They’re a pretty developed run game. That’s going to be a big focal point for us. They establish the run and take big play-action shots.”

That’s where Coyne, Williams and Young come in.

Coyne is among the nation’s top pass rushers. He has a team-high 9.5 sacks in 2022, which is good for a tie for 22nd in the nation.

“They’re definitely going to run the ball, I think I saw they run the ball on average 45 times a game,” he said. “That’s something we are going to see, and they’re going to try a quick game, which is something a lot of teams have tried on us.

“No team has really been able to figure out a formula how to beat our defense,” he added. “There have been some games that have been close games, but our defense has been able to hold up pretty well.”

Williams boasts a team-high five interceptions.

“Adrian’s having a great year,” Larsen said. “I think he’s second in our league in pass breakups and first in interceptions. People have tested him, and he’s done a great job of stepping up. He came back from a pretty bad ACL injury last year. To come back from that and play the way he has been has been pretty remarkable.”

Carnegie Mellon cornerback Adrian Williams (20), a graduate of Peters Township, has a team-high five interceptions. (Carnegie Mellon University Athletics Department)

For Williams, the key to the game will be assisting in the running game and biding his time.

“It’s just really being patient and treating every play like it’s a pass play,” he said. “That’s the thing, just keeping your eyes on your man and knowing every play this could be the play that comes your way.”

The plays that have come Young’s way this season have resulted in a nickname from his coach.

“He’s our walking splash play as we like to say,” Larsen said of Young. “He just finds a way to get around the ball and make things happen.

“You’re just waiting around for him to make a big play.”

Young has four interceptions and one forced fumble this season. The play that stands out the most was a fourth-quarter interception Young returned for a touchdown against Washington & Jefferson.

“It’s the whole defense helping out with the D-line getting to the quarterback and putting pressure on him to make ill-advised throws,” Young said. “It’s definitely a whole defensive effort for that.”

The Tartans are making their eighth NCAA postseason bid and their first back-to-back NCAA playoff berths since 1978-79. The Tartans claimed their ninth PAC championship. DePauw, which won the North Coast Athletic Conference championship, is making its fourth postseason appearance.

The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of the North Central-Lake Forest game on Nov. 26 at a site and time to be determined.

“Our goal is to go 1-0 this week and focus on this game purely,” Coyne said. “We can’t really predict the future or predict who we are going to play because it’s a tournament style, and we can’t predict who is coming next. We’re making sure we get better every practice.”

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at