Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy Johns Hopkins Athletics

HAMPDEN SYDNEY, VA - Faced with unenviable task of playing just the second NCAA playoff game in school history on the road at undefeated and 14th-ranked Hamden-Sydney, the Johns Hopkins football team turned in a dominant second-half performance to ease past the host Tigers 23-7 and advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in school history. The Blue Jays improve to 9-2 on the year, while the Tigers suffer their first loss of the season and end the year at 10-1.

"I'm very proud of our team," Johns Hopkins head coach Jim Margraff noted. "We knew it would take a monumental effort to come down here and beat an undefeated Hampden-Sydney team. We made some mistakes early on offense, but adjusted well at halftime. At the same time, we tackled very well on defense and our defensive coordinator (Bob Chesney) did a magnificent job of preparing our players."

The Blue Jays held the ball for nearly 14 minutes in the third quarter to take control of the game and eventually wore the Tigers down in a fourth quarter that saw them out-score the hosts 16-0. A 23-yard Alex Lachman field goal broke a 7-7 tie less than one minute into the final period and would be the first of three he would hit in the quarter and the first of four scores for the Blue Jays in the final 15 minutes. The 23-yard field goal capped a 15-play, 68-yard drive that ate just over six minute off the clock.

The Tigers, who entered the game averaging over 37 points and 430 yards of total offense, had a chance to draw even a short time later as they returned the kickoff after Lachman's field goal to the JHU 23-yard line. However, sophomore Mike Milano blocked David Prizzia's 40-yard field goal attempt and the Blue Jays bled five more minutes off the clock as they moved 68 yards in nine plays and capped their second touchdown drive of the game with a one-yard run by senior Andrew Kase on fourth-and-goal with 9:22 remaining to make it 17-7.
The Blue Jay defense, which came up with four interceptions in the win, then picked off Hamden-Sydney quarterback Corey Sedlar on three straight possessions and turned them into 28 and 27-yard field goals by Lachman in the final 3:25 before taking a knee in the final seconds after a Mike Todisco interception sealed the win with less than one minute remaining. Kase did much of his damage down the stretch as 66 of his 109 yards on the day came in the second half and the disparity in time of possession came into play.

While Kase turned in his 24th career 100-yard rushing game and scored both Blue Jay touchdowns, it was the play of junior wide receiver Dan Crowley that was the difference in the game. Crowley totaled a career-high 13 receptions for a personal-best 178 yards and continually found seams in the Tiger defense. He had seven receptions for 109 yards in the second half alone as the Blue Jays kept the chains moving and held the ball for more than 26 minutes after halftime.

"The game plan really came together and the routes we run really flow together well" Crowley noted. "Hewitt (sophomore quarterback Hewitt Tomlin) was putting the ball right on the money and the coaches set us up to make plays. It was just a matter of staying together and making plays."

Hampden-Sydney struck first midway through the first quarter as the Tigers made the Blue Jays pay for one of their two first-half turnovers. After Hopkins had moved from its own 31 to the Tiger 43, the Blue Jays fumbled the snap from center and Trevor Ikwild came up with the recovery at the 42-yard line.

Four plays later the Tigers were faced with a second-and-10 at the Blue Jay 44, where they went deep and found the end zone. Sophomore Sean Cavanaugh got a step on junior Mike Mahon and Sedlar dropped one in right at the goal line, where Cavanaugh fought off Mahon for the opening score.

The Blue Jays had a golden opportunity to pull even early in the second quarter as they moved from their own 35 to the Tiger 12, only to turn the ball over for the second time. Sophomore quarterback Hewitt Tomlin mishandled the shotgun snap and had to retreat to pick up the ball. He had a receiver open in the back of the end zone, but the timing of the play had been thrown off and his rushed throw was intercepted by junior Bill Doody, who returned the ball out to the 20-yard line.

The Blue Jay defense forced a punt on Hampden-Sydney's ensuing possession and JHU took over at its own 23. Seven plays and 77 yards later Tomlin and the Blue Jays ran a perfect back-side screen and Kase rambled in from 10 yards out to make it 7-7. The key play on the drive came on first-and-10 from the JHU 38 as Crowley hit sophomore Sam Wernick in stride on a double-reverse pass and Wernick took it town to the Tiger 24. Tomlin and Kase hooked up three plays later to account for a 7-7 halftime tie.

That tie held until Lachman and the Blue Jays struck first in the first minute of the pivotal fourth quarter. From there, Kase, the offensive line and the JHU defense took over to set up a second round matchup at Thomas More next Saturday. Thomas More knocked off DePauw, 49-39, on Saturday.

Tomlin was 26-of-39 for 265 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Crowley's career day led the way for the Blue Jay receivers, who totaled 27 receptions for 303 yards and the one score. Kase worked hard for each of his 109 yards, which came on 38 carries.

Sedlar was 16-of-37 for 170 yards with the one touchdown and three interceptions. Cavanaugh had a team-high five receptions for 92 yards, including the 44-yard touchdown.

The Blue Jay defense came up with four interceptions and seven pass breakups and held the Tigers to just 199 yards of total offense and 29 yards rushing.