D-III Sidebar: Rough Conditions Plague Hopkins-Wesley Matchup
Dec. 5, 2009
By John Roach
Special to NCAA.com
DOVER, Del. – One look outside of their windows Saturday morning told the coaches all they needed to know about how useful their game plan would be on a cold, windy, dismally rainy day.
“You can throw out the playbook,” Wesley coach Mike Drass said. “It’s kind of like playing in the snow in eighth grade with your friends—and it got worse throughout the game.”
Johns Hopkins struggled the most in its 12-0 loss to third-ranked Wesley, recording only one more first down (8) than fumbles and interceptions combined (7) although the Blue Jays did recover four of their own bobbles.
“It was freezing,” said Wesley quarterback Shane McSweeny, who finished 10-for-17 with 167 passing yards, added 50 rushing yards and scored touchdown. “You can’t turn the ball over in this type of game — it’s too big of a game. So you really tuck it in there and take care of it.”
The weather also impacted each team’s third-down conversion rates. Wesley made just 4-of-16 while Johns Hopkins succeeded on 4-of-14.
The foul weather may benefit the Wolverines in one: their conservative play-calling may not allow Mount Union to scout as accurately heading into their Division III national semifinal next Saturday. “I don’t know if it’ll be three yards and a cloud of dust next week,” said Wesley’s Drass.
Numbers Lie: Wesley’s win was “The Rout That Wasn’t.” The winners dominated the game statistically, but points didn’t follow in a game that wasn’t decided until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 40 minutes, 7 seconds, compared to the Blue Jays’ 19:53. Wesley had three times the number of rushing yards (155-47) and almost double the passing yards (167-89). They also limited a Johns Hopkins team that had gained at least 400 total yards in five straight games to a mere 136 on Saturday.
“We were able to move the ball and control the clock against an outstanding defense — and that’s because of our offensive line,” said Drass. “The time of possession is one of the reasons we won the game.”
Defense Doesn’t Rest: Johns Hopkins’ defense deserves credit for keeping the game close. Despite being on the field twice as long as the offense, the unit repeatedly halted Wesley drives with key plays.
The Blue Jays stopped the Wolverines on a vital first-quarter fourth-down play at their own 37, and also had interceptions by Sam Eagleson and Colin Wixted to go along with a pair of fumble recoveries.
“We play off the turnovers,” said Wixted, who also had nine tackles. “It fuels us.”
After calling his team’s defense in the game “spectacular,” Johns Hopkins coach Jim Margraff noted, “their two scores came on short fields.”
The Blue Jays — and the freezing rain — held Wesley’s vaunted passing attack to 167 yards and limited dangerous receiver Ellis Krout, who has 20 touchdowns for the season, to just two catches for 47 yards and no touchdowns.
Wesley’s 12 points were the fewest it has scored since a 2007 season-ending, 27-10 playoff loss to No. 4-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor. On the other hand, Johns Hopkins, which scored a school-record 388 points this year, was shut out for the first time since a 17-0 loss to end the 1998 season.
Best Kase: Johns Hopkins senior running back Andrew Kase finished his career as the school’s all-time leading rusher by far. He also was one of just four backs in Maryland state history to top 4,000 career yards rushing yards. He trails only McDaniel’s Eric Frees (5,281) and tops Navy’s Napoleon McCallum (4,179) and Maryland’s Lamont Jordan (4,147).
Though the Wolverines held Kase, ranked fourth nationally in scoring (12 points per game), to a season-low 53 yards on 13 carries, Wesley coach Drass came away even more impressed by the Centennial League offensive player of the year than he was before the game.
“I thought he was good, but today he was outstanding,” said Drass. “He’s a tough kid, and nobody gets yards on us, but he was even getting yards after contact.”
Kase holds most of the Johns Hopkins rushing records and wound up with 4,494 yards and 46 career touchdowns, to go along with having three of the school’s five all-time 1,000-yard rushing seasons.