[Written by Joe Ginley]
An injury-plagued JCU squad battled the Otterbein Cardinals on Saturday, Sept. 22, but ultimately suffered a tough 21-7 loss. The game left fans convinced that with fewer penalties and a little more luck, the Blue and Gold could have pulled out a win.
The Blue Streaks went into Saturday’s matchup with high hopes of defeating the Cardinals and bouncing back from a last-minute 32-28 loss to Baldwin Wallace last week. Despite not having Mark Myers at the helm on offense due to injury, JCU’s chances looked good after an eight-play, 57-yard drive early in the first quarter. The Blue Streaks sprang out to a 7-0 lead, courtesy of running back Sean Kuenzig, who ran 18 yards to the end zone. The Cardinals answered quickly, however, unleashing the talented Trey Fairchild on the Blue Streaks. The 2011 All-Ohio Athletic Conference wideout returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to give Otterbein outstanding field position. Cardinal quarterback Aaron Kingcade and company did not waste the opportunity. The offense marched the remaining 36 yards down the field to tie the game at seven, as Kingcade capped the drive off with a five-yard run.
The contest turned into a defensive struggle, as the front sevens for both teams dominated much of the remaining action. Sophomore JCU linebacker Kevin Cope (who recorded 12 tackles and two tackles for loss) and Otterbein defensive end Patrick Seesholtz (who racked up seven tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a sack) proved particularly hard to contain.
But both offenses came alive near the end of the first half. Kingcade and the Cardinals marched 79 yards down the field, gaining a 14-7 lead with 45 seconds left on the clock, as Kingcade finished the drive with a 13-yard dash. Senior JCU quarterback Michael Locke, starting the game in place of Myers, responded by making a couple of good passes to lead the team within striking distance of the end zone. But a high shotgun snap ended the drive, as the Blue Streaks turned the ball over to conclude the half.
Neither offense could get going in the third quarter, as both teams struggled to move the ball. The Blue Streaks had trouble holding back a vicious Otterbein front seven, which accounted for seven tackles for loss and a sack. The Cardinals also strained to stop JCU’s relentless defensive unit, which notched eight tackles for loss and two sacks of its own. Neither ground game gained much traction, as JCU junior DaQuan Grobsmith was limited to 69 yards, and Otterbein’s Brock Burzanko was held to 16 yards.
Eventually, Kingcade broke through the Blue Streak secondary, as he found Steven Carpenter for a 69-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The connection made the score 21-7, the last tally of the game. The Blue and Gold threatened to score, but could not find the end zone, as the clock ticked down to zero.
“We just did not play well enough in certain situations,” JCU head coach Regis Scafe said on Monday afternoon.
But there is reason for optimism for this dangerous 1-2 JCU squad going into next week’s game against Capital: the defense looks stellar, and the offense still has powerful weapons.
Junior receiver Lane Robilotto, who led the Blue Streaks in all-purpose yards against Otterbein, said, “The one bright thing about these two losses is that we know, in both cases, we were the better team. The losses were a result of us making silly mistakes and underachieving. We know we are still a top team in this conference. We just have to come out next week and prove it. This is going to be a tough week of practice. Back to the basics, but we will come out better for it.”
The Blue Streaks will play next this coming Saturday, Sept. 29 as they travel to Bexley to take on Capital University. The Blue and Gold defeated the Crusaders 37-24 when the two met last season. The team hopes to have Myers, left guard Breen Cullivan and running back Randy Greenwood back from injury.