October 29, 2011

Johns Hopkins Clinches NCAA Playoff Bid With 37-9 Win Over Ursinus

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BALTIMORE, MD - The 12th-ranked Johns Hopkins football team entered Saturday's showdown with Ursinus boasting the third-ranked passing attack in the nation at better than 342 yards per game. In weather conditions better suited for just about anything other than throwing the football, the Blue Jays turned to their running game and powered their way 303 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to fuel a 37-9 victory over the Bears at Homewood Field Saturday afternoon.

The victory secures the Centennial Conference's automatic bit to the upcoming NCAA Playoffs for the Blue Jays, who also assured themselves of no worse than a share of the league title with the victory. Hopkins, which improved to 8-0 for the first time in school history, ran its winning streak to 13 games dating back to last season. The Blue Jays are now 7-0 in the Centennial and have a two-game lead over Ursinus and Gettysburg with two games remaining in the regular season.

Johns Hopkins led 7-3 late in the second quarter before taking control with a pair of touchdowns in the final 4:16 of the first half to extend the lead to 21-3.

A 21-yard punt return by sophomore Dan Wodicka gave the Blue Jays possession at the Ursinus 35-yard line with just over five minutes remaining in the second quarter. A 22-yard rush by senior quarterback Tyler Porco set the Blue Jays up deep in Ursinus territory and junior Jonathan Rigaudcapped the drive two plays later with a 16-yard scoring run that made it 14-3.

The Bears nearly ran out the remainder of the first half, but the first of three crucial special teams blunders for Ursinus gave the Blue Jays one final chance to score before halftime.

After moving from their own 40 to the JHU 40, the Ursinus drive stalled and the Bears set up to punt with 30 seconds on the clock. A high snap on the punt attempt sailed over the head of Derek Giannetti, who could only cover the ball back at the Ursinus 30, where JHU took over with 23 seconds remaining.

The Blue Jays worked their way to the Ursinus 14-yard line before calling their second timeout with six seconds on the clock. Senior quarterback Hewitt Tomlin then hit senior Sam Wernickwith a 14-yard strike to account for the 21-3 halftime score.

The Bears temporarily grabbed some momentum early in the second half as they forced a quick Blue Jay three-and-out and needed just two plays and 38 seconds to go 38 yards with Drae Lewis racing 29 yards for a touchdown that trimmed the deficit to 21-9.

The second of those special teams miscues came on the ensuing extra point as a low snap was scooped up by Giannnetti, who rolled to his right looking for someone to throw to. Instead, his pass into the end zone was intercepted by JHU's P.J. Caufieldin the end zone and he raced 100 yards untouched for a defensive two-point conversion that made it 23-9.

Just under four minutes later, the Blue Jays all but sealed the victory with a one-play, one-yard touchdown drive that was set up when Giannetti mishandled the snap on a punt and was tackled at the Ursinus one-yard line. Junior Scott Barletta'ssecond one-yard touchdown run of the game one play later pushed JHU's lead to 30-9 with 9:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Ursinus totaled just 27 yards on its next three possessions before the Blue Jays put the game away with a 69-yard touchdown run by Rigaud with just under 11 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to account for the 37-9 final score.

Rigaud led the way on the ground with a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns. His 69-yard touchdown run in the longest run of his career. Porco was also a key part of the Blue Jay ground game, which topped 300 yards in a game for the first time since October 31, 2009 when Hopkins totaled 319 yards against Juniata. Porco worked the the zone read with Rigaud to perfection as he rushed six times for a career-high 85 yards.

The Blue Jay defense turned in another standout performance as the Bears were limited to just 132 yards of total offense with 82 yards rushing and 50 passing. Bryan Ellis rushed for a team-high 69 yards and Lewis added 67, but the miscues on the punts, which count as lost yards rushing, were more than Ursinus could overcome. Sophomore Chris Curran was just 7-of-18 for 50 yards and no Ursinus player had more than one reception in the game. In addition, the Blue Jay defense held Ursinus to just three third-down conversions on 15 attempts and the Bears were also 0-for-3 on fourth-down attempts.

Junior Taylor Maciow posted a game-high 10 tackles for the Blue Jays, who also got eight tackles from senior Ryan Piatek and seven each from seniors Sam Eagleson and Michael Milano. Milano added a sack and two pass breakups for Johns Hopkins, which held its fourth opponent of the year under 200 yards of total offense.

Johns Hopkins, which secured at least a share of its third straight Centennial title with the win, will host Franklin & Marshall at Homewood Field next Saturday (November 5) at noon in the final regular season home game of the year for the Blue Jays. Ursinus will host Muhlenberg next Saturday.

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