Great offensive numbers plus bad defensive numbers equals an awful lot of points. That formula appeared to fit last Saturday’s game to a tee when the Blue Streaks took on the Student Princes of Heidelberg University.
In a game that featured more than 1,000 yards of combined offense and ten touchdowns, it was ironic that a potential game-winning field goal that sailed left of the uprights would decide the outcome.
Despite posting a season-high 484 yards of total offense on Saturday, John Carroll could not out-score the star-studded Heidelberg offense in a 37-35 loss at Mayer Field in Tiffin, Ohio.
John Carroll fell to 4-5, 4-4 in the conference with the loss – their first to Heidelberg since 1993 in a stretch that covered 16 games.
The Student Princes were led by the trio of senior quarterback Andrew Miller, senior wide receiver Mike Preston and freshman running back Germany Woods, who totaled 559 yards of total offense in the win.
They improved to 5-4 overall and 4-4 in the OAC. It marks the first time since 1997 that Heidelberg has won five games in a season.
JCU had a fantastic start after the defense forced a punt and the offence pieced together a six play, 99-yard scoring drive on their first possession.
Junior quarterback Devin O’Brien, known for his running capabilities, wasted no time throwing the football. O’Brien capped off the drive with a 16-yard pass to sophomore running back DaQuan Grobsmith to give the Blue Streaks the early lead.
A 51-yard completion to sophomore tight end Ben Madden with an additional 15 yards after a late hit out of bounds penalty set up the touchdown, and the Blue Streaks led 7-0 five minutes into the game.
Unfortunately for JCU, Heidelberg has as good of an offense as anyone in the country. Coming into the game, Miller had the fifth most passing touchdowns in the country (and a school record 25) as well as holding the top spot in the Ohio Athletic Conference with 277.3 yards of total offense per game.
His top target Preston, a 6-5, 205 pound receiver, ranked sixth in the country with 122.5 receiving yards per game and had recorded at least one touchdown in every game this season. Throw in Woods, who averaged almost 93.0 yards per game on the ground, and the Student Princes become a multi-faceted powerhouse, one that would score back-to-back touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead.
The second score came on a designed fake field goal in which the quarterback Miller served as the holder and scrambled 17 yards to give the ‘Berg the lead.
Looking to answer that score, the Blue Streaks concocted a little creativity of their own. O’Brien lined up in the shotgun with two running backs to his right. He took the snap, took two hard steps toward the line of scrimmage, and then fired a perfect pass to senior Frank Ross who hauled in the game-tying touchdown. Earlier in the game, Ross became the first player in school history to haul in 200 career receptions.
Heidelberg went back to the ground game, running five times for 60 yards. Sophomore Brad Jones re-established the lead with a 15-yard run for a score. With 6:16 to go in the second quarter, the host Student Princes led 21-14.
Yet again, the Blue Streaks answered with a four play, 78-yard drive that was capped off with a 41-yard touchdown burst from Grobsmith that tied the game at 21. The sophomore running back finished the day with a new career high of 174 yards.
But if there is anything Heidelberg can do well, it’s score. They did one more time before the half as Woods found the end zone for the second time in the game to give the ‘Berg a 28-21 lead at the break.
In a first half that saw a combined 690 yards of total offense, each team’s defense certainly needed to regroup.
“We knew coming into the game that they had a potent offense,” said Ross. “But our guys got into a great rhythm – negative plays were very minimal and we also had plenty of big gains.”
“Early on in the year, we didn’t really come out flying to the ball on defense,” said senior linebacker Luke Whitworth. “But every play now, there are almost 11 guys crashing on the ball carrier. Unfortunately in the first half, we didn’t do that very well. But we definitely made strides defensively in the second half.”
That included holding Heidelberg to three points on a goal-to-go situation that gave Heidelberg a 31-21 lead – which was the biggest lead either team held all game.
After a Blue Streak punt, the Student Princes were moving with authority. Finally, John Carroll’s defense caught the break it deserved. Junior C.J. Seitzinger popped Jones at the line of scrimmage, who coughed up the football. Freshman linebacker Josh Varon recovered the fumble, and the momentum swung back in favor of the Blue Streaks.
Coach Regis Scafe’s offense went back to what they have done best all season – running the football. After six runs totaling 41 yards, O’Brien faked a handoff and found senior Sean Webster wide open in the back corner of the end zone for the score. The PAT from sophomore Brad Marchese was good and narrowed the deficit to three points.
JCU didn’t trail for long after that as they rode Grobsmith – who carried the ball on nine of the ten plays on the drive – over the goal line for the touchdown. With 6:10 remaining, John Carroll led 35-31.
But the ‘Berg couldn’t be stopped. Behind Miller, Heidelberg methodically moved the ball down the field. The Student Princes pieced together a 13-play, 63-yard drive that gave them the lead. Preston caught a screen pass and hurdled would-be tacklers for a 15-yard touchdown reception. Heidelberg missed the extra point attempt wide left, leaving the score 37-35 with only 48 seconds left in the game.
Senior Bobby Mangiarelli returned the kickoff 43 yards to the Heidelberg 42, giving the Streaks excellent field position. O’Brien picked up 17 yards in the air after two pass plays, followed by Grobsmith running to the right to give the team a better look at the field goal attempt. Unfortunately, the attempt from 41 yards sailed wide to the left and the ‘Berg hung on for victory.
“A lot of credit goes to our offense,” said Scafe after the game. “We were caught up in a shootout, but hung with them the whole day. We found ourselves down 10 going into the fourth quarter and we came back to take the lead. They played extremely well all day.”
O’Brien threw for a career best 224 yards and three touchdowns in the losing effort. The Streaks amassed 260 yards on the ground as they increased their season average to nearly 194 yards per contest.
The Blue Streaks have the chance to finish the season strong on Saturday. They could still finish as high as fourth place in the OAC with a win over Baldwin-Wallace College.
“I don’t think I’m going to need to tell these guys too much going into next week,” said Scafe. “We’re playing B-W and we will definitely be ready. We’re looking forward to finishing this season on a high note.”