What a difference a year makes. Last season at this time John Carroll was returning to University Heights on a high note coming off of a 41-14 pounding of Thomas More College. On Saturday, costly mistakes and missed opportunities led to a disappointing 14-7 loss to the Saints.
Before the first whistle was even blown, JCU received some disheartening news. Senior quarterback Jeff Javorek, who had won the quarterback job after the graduation of Mark Petruziello, would be out due to an injury suffered during the final scrimmage before the opener.
Sophomore Devin O’Brien, who had never taken a collegiate varsity snap, was thrown into the starter’s role for the Blue Streaks.
“Jeff Javorek took most of the snaps for us throughout the preseason so him not playing did not necessarily change our game plan, but we would have had more of a feel for which quarterback would be running the show,” said senior wide receiver Frank Ross. Ross caught a game-high eight passes for 81 yards from O’Brien.
The scoring opened in the first quarter after Thomas More’s Cordario Collier busted outside for a 33-yard run to set up the offense inside the red-zone.
The defense would hold the line as the Saints prepared for what looked liked a field goal try on fourth down. As quarterback Trevor Stellman took the snap and began to set it in place for his kicker, he quickly rolled out to his right and scampered three yards for the first touchdown of the day.
Both offenses would go stagnant for much of the first half until the Blue Streaks went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a three yard touchdown run by freshman running back DaQuan Grobsmith.
The second half saw much of the same as both defenses were holding the offenses to little production.
The tide looked to be turning for JCU late in the third quarter when a punt was downed on the two-yard line of the Saints.
Unfortunately, the experience of Thomas More’s Stellman proved to be the difference. He was able to lead his team 98 yards over 11 plays. The drive was capped off with a 17-yard scramble for Stellman’s second rushing touchdown of the day.
O’Brien was not willing to give up the game that easily. He managed to get his team down inside the Saints’ 20-yard line, before throwing an interception on a desperation jump ball to his 6-foot-4-inch sophomore receiver Kyle Hubbard.
Penalties played a crucial part in the game as JCU racked up over 85 yards in violations on 10 separate infractions. No penalty was more significant than the illegal block, which brought back the possible game-tying touchdown with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter.
“We did some great things Saturday,” said Ross. “We successfully marched down the field twice so we know we can move the ball, but shooting ourselves in the foot play after play really hurts us.”
John Carroll is off this week before returning to action on Sept. 19 for their lone, home night game of the season. Adding more excitement to the lone night contest is the fact that it’s a battle against Baldwin-Wallace College.