Freshman kicker Mauricio Garibay's (Hickory Hills, Ill./Saint Lawrence) 46-yard field goal bounced off the crossbar and through the uprights with under a minute remaining as Washington & Jefferson kept its season going with a 31-28 win over Johns Hopkins in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Division III Football Championship at Cameron Stadium.
The Presidents advance to the second round and will host Frostburg State, a 35-7 winner at Wittenberg, on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 12 p.m. The site of the game will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 19.
With the score tied, 28-28, midway through the fourth quarter, senior cornerback O'Shea Anderson (Rochester, Pa./Rochester) stopped a Hopkins drive in the red zone with his seventh interception of the season, which is the fifth most in program history. Pinned inside its own five-yard line, W&J was able to move the ball out to the 25, but was eventually forced into a punt off the foot of freshman punter Brandon Burnett (Erie, Pa./Harbor Creek), which gave JHU the ball back at its own 38-yard line with 5:39 remaining.
The W&J defense stood tall on that possession, surrendering just one yard and forcing a three-and-out. Starting at their own 30-yard line, W&J moved the ball with nine yards on the first play on a completion from senior quarterback Alex Rowse (Beaver, Pa./Beaver) to junior wide receiver Brandon Barnes (Hagerstown, Md./St. Johns) and then a first-down rush by sophomore running back Jordan West (Washington, Pa./Washington) on third-and-one. A couple of more completions got the Presidents into Blue Jays' territory and then West and Rowse ripped off back-to-back 11-yard carries to get inside the 30. The drive would stall, however, and force the Presidents to attempt a 46-yard field goal, which Garibay made to put the home team back ahead. It was the fifth-longest field goal in program history, and the longest since 1995.
JHU got the ball back with 52 seconds remaining at its own 27-yard line and the first three plays of the possession ended in sacks as senior defensive end Tom Marra (Moon Township, Pa./Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) posted a pair on first and second down and then senior defensive lineman Freddie McKissick (Carnegie, Pa./Carlynton) dropped the Blue Jays' quarterback on third down. With no time outs left, Hopkins rushed to the line and was only able to get 13 of the 30 yards they needed for a first down, giving the ball back to W&J and sealing the victory.
A missed field goal by Hopkins late in the third quarter gave W&J the ball at its own 32 and the Presidents went 68 yards on four plays, the biggest being a 46-yard jaunt by West, before Rowse found senior wide receiver Cody Hearst (Clarion, Pa./Clarion) in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to give the lead back to the Red & Black, 21-14.
The next 14 points came from the visitors in the fourth quarter though as JHU answered with a 74-yard touchdown drive (21-21) and then an interception on the first play from scrimmage gave them the ball right back, which was turned into a 21-yard rushing touchdown by Tyler Messinger to give Hopkins its first lead of the game with 12:10 to play. W&J was not phased though, needing just seven plays to march 68 yards and take 2:51 off the clock before Rowse found Zubik for a 12-yard touchdown with 9:14 remaining in the game, 28-28.
Rowse threw 61 passes in his first game back from injury, completing 36 of them for 391 yards and three scores, the second-highest yardage total of his career. Three Presidents went over 100 yards receiving on the day as Zubik and Barnes tied for the game high with nine catches apiece for 114 and 103 yards, respectively, and Hearst hauled in eight passes for 101 yards and a score. It was the first 100-yard game of Barnes' career and the second for Hearst. West went over 100 yards for the third time this season, rolling up 123 yards and a score on 22 rushes.
On the day, W&J racked up 512 yards of total offense (391 passing, 121 rushing) on 95 plays, while Hopkins put up 426 yards (265 passing, 161 rushing) on 88 plays. W&J possessed the ball for 32:05 and forced three Hopkins turnovers. The Presidents were also stout on third downs, limiting the Blue Jays to just 2-of-17 in those situations.
Marra finished with seven tackles, but a career-high four sacks on the day, plus a forced fumble. McKissick and senior defensive end Sal DeCario (New Derry, Pa./Derry) each had sacks and Anderson added a TFL to go with his interception and six tackles. Senior linebacker Dalton Day (Sewickley, Pa./Avonworth) posted 16 tackles for the second-straight week, matching his career- and season-bests. Junior safety Zach Royba (Beaver, Pa./Beaver) also hit double figures with 10 tackles and a key interception at the W&J five-yard line while the Blue Jays were driving.