(Written by Cory Biro)
Football teams are easily defined by stats and players. But in one word, the 2011 Blue Streaks (5-5, 5-4 OAC) can be defined by their heart. Despite a crushing last second 45-37 loss to cross-town rival Baldwin-Wallace College (8-2, 7-2 OAC) on Saturday, the Blue Streaks stayed true to form and fought through the final whistle.
With the Cuyahoga Gold Bowl up for grabs and only six ticks left, senior quarterback Devin O’Brien’s pass fell incomplete as time expired and John Carroll’s season came to a close.
This offensive contest featured only two punts on both sides all day and 514 total rushing yards. O’Brien had one more career day left in him, leading the offense down the field time and time again. He finished with 14-22 passing for 233 yards and two touchdowns. As he has all season, the dual threat quarterback tacked on 173 yards rushing (13 short of a career-high) and two additional scores.
The Blue Streaks played from behind from the start as Baldwin-Wallace took the opening kick down to the 10-yard line and scored one play later. With 4:33 remaining in the first half, junior running back Anthony D’Aurizio gave John Carroll its only lead of the game at 15-14. For the second time in consecutive touchdown drives, the Blue and Gold failed the extra point attempt. B-W followed with 10 unanswered points and took a 24-15 lead into the locker room.
JCU shot out of the gate at the start of the third quarter. Junior tight end Casey Rouch caught his first career touchdown on a 14-yard throw from O’Brien to shorten the B-W lead to 24-22. Each time JCU narrowed the margin, however, the Yellow Jackets had an answer – this time a five-yard run for six from junior quarterback Andrew Dziak. The Blue Streaks then responded with nine runs for 80 yards to make it a 31-29 game.
BW went to work in the red zone, scoring twice on their next two possessions to take a 45-29 lead with just under three minutes left in the game. Badly in need of a spark, junior wide receiver Lane Robilotto took the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to the seven-yard line, where O’Brien ran it in two plays later. Robilotto finished the contest with 226 all-purpose yards, including 147 receiving with a touchdown. With 2:18 left in the game, B-W led 45-37.
Senior special teams stand-out Chris Creel recovered John Carroll’s onside kick, giving the team a glimmer of hope. With one timeout remaining, O’Brien and company took the field one last time. Four completions later, they reached the 12-yard line with only six seconds left. But one final shot at the end zone fell short and the 2011 season became history.
“There have been countless times this season where we found ourselves in bad situations and we fought back and we won some of those games,” said co-offensive coordinator Tom Arth. “Today, unfortunately, we came out on the short side. But the fight was incredible and at the end of the day, that’s how you’re measured – by the way you fight back.”
Defensively, senior linebacker C.J. Seitzinger finished with 11 tackles, giving him 310 for his career. Seitzinger became only the seventh player to eclipse 300 tackles in program history. He finished the year with 97 stops, good for fourth in the conference.
“One of my biggest goals was to be a leading tackler for the school and it came through,” said Seitzinger. “Those guys up front did their job, which let me do mine. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”
John Carroll University football will return next Labor Day weekend in Dublin, Ireland against St. Norbert College of the Midwest Conference (7-3 in 2011) for the 2012 Global Ireland Football Tournament.