In each of the last six years, John Carroll has struggled on the gridiron against Ohio Northern. Not scoring more than 14 points against the Polar Bears since the 50-25 drubbing in 2005, the Blue Streaks hoped that their offensive momentum over the last month would reverse their recent fate. On a picture-perfect October afternoon for college football, it would take a full 60 minutes before the outcome would be determined.
Unfortunately, Blue and Gold hearts bled at the gates after a heart-breaking 24-21 defeat snapped their four-game winning streak.
The Blue Streaks (4-3, 4-2 OAC) won the coin toss to start the game and chose to trust their defense off the bat.
The move proved successful after the Blue Streaks held strong on a fourth and inches inside their own red zone. Unfortunately, Kresimir Ivkovic pushed a 36-yard field goal try wide right on the Blue Streaks’ ensuing drive and JCU couldn’t take the lead on their first drive of the game. Ohio Northern went 80 and 73 yards, respectively, on their next two drives, cashing in for touchdowns both times and taking a 14-0 lead with 11:29 remaining in the second quarter.
The Blue Streaks responded by piecing together a 13-play, 66-yard drive on their third possession of the game. The drive was capped off by a two-yard rushing touchdown from freshman running back Domonic De La Riva. The defense held strong at the end of the quarter and John Carroll trailed 14-7 at the halftime break.
“I think our [offensive] line was just playing pretty good and the fullbacks were blocking their butts off,” said De La Riva.
De La Riva, a freshman from Palm Desert, Calif., would add to his career day on the first possession of the third quarter. John Carroll began the second half with a 16-play, 70-yard drive that took 8:05 off the clock, concluding with a De La Riva 1-yard TD run to tie the game at 14. On their next offensive possession, the Blue Streaks’ offense marched 86 yards after another fourth and inches stop. This time, it was a 37-yard burst by De La Riva, his longest rush of the day, that catapulted John Carroll to a 21-14 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
Polar Bears sophomore quarterback Tyler Rue would respond by connecting with senior Justin Wilson for a 35-yard touchdown pass, their first points since 11:29 in the second quarter, making the score 21-21. Ohio Northern would then force a JCU three-and-out and would follow up their touchdown drive with a 12-play, 62-yard drive that allowed Polar Bears kicker Lee Lukasevic to kick what would be the game-winning field goal from 29-yards out with 1:30 in the game.
The Blue Streaks would get the ball back after the field-goal with one timeout left hoping to find some offensive magic, but the drive was eventually halted by an Ohio Northern interception to close out the game.
“Basically we missed a field goal, that’s the difference in the game,” said head coach Regis Scafe. “The difference was one field goal.”
Putting the loss aside, the Blue Streaks were superlative running the football. Thanks to a career high 107-yard, three-touchdown performance by De La Riva, along with stout offensive line and fullback play, the Blue Streaks were able to rush for over 200 yards as a team for the fourth time this season. Officially, they ended with 209 yards rushing as a team, and De La Riva became the fourth Blue Streak this season to rush for more than 100 yards in a game.
“He’s gotten better every week and ran the ball incredibly hard today,” said JCU Director of Football Operations and Co-Offensive Coordinator Tom Arth. “I was very proud of him, [and] very proud of the guys up front. They did a great job opening up some holes.”
The Blue Streaks will need to win their remaining three games to keep any hopes of a postseason berth alive. They will begin a two-game home stand this Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. against Capital at Don Shula Stadium.