On a perfect fall evening at Don Shula Stadium, the Blue Streaks attempted to achieve the nearly impossible: defeat the seemingly invincible Purple Raiders of Mount Union. Brimming with emotion on a senior night dedicated to 27 departing players, the Blue and Gold were eager to hand the visitors their first OAC loss since 2005 and their first OAC road defeat in 126 games. A fast start gave the Blue Streaks reason for optimism, but 38 unanswered points by Mount Union would dash those hopes.
Armed with potent quarterback Mark Myers and a solid defense, JCU looked to have its best shot in years to take down the Purple Raiders, the top-ranked team in the country among NCAA Division III teams. The Blue Streaks’ chances looked even better when they jumped out to an early lead. Long snapper Robert Sason recovered a Mount Union fumble on a punt return, giving JCU great field position at the Mount Union 15-yard line. Though the drive stalled, kicker Brad Marchese’s 25-yard field goal gave the Blue Streaks a 3-0 lead. Senior wide receiver Lane Robilotto also achieved a milestone early in the game, setting a JCU season record for receiving yards with 1,098. “Breaking the record is very bittersweet; it’s great, but it was a tough night for my last football game,” he said.
The explosive Mount Union offense, led by sophomore quarterback Kevin Burke, answered JCU’s field goal with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive. With a 21-yard touchdown pass from Burke to wideout Jasper Collins, the Purple Raiders claimed a 7-3 lead. On its next drive, Mount Union gambled on 4th and 6 from the JCU 32-yard line. Sophomore linebacker Choe Samba made them pay, as he sacked Burke for a loss of 24. Myers needed only three plays to lead the Blue and Gold into the end zone. The sophomore signal caller found senior tight end Ben Madden for five yards, to give the Blue Streaks a 10-7 lead. The sturdy JCU defense forced a three and out on Mount Union’s next drive. But senior DaQuan Grobsmith fumbled the ensuing punt, giving the visitors the ball back. Fortunately, for the third consecutive drive, the JCU defense stepped up to the occasion, stopping the Purple Raiders on 4th and 2 at the JCU 16.
Following an unsuccessful drive to begin the second quarter, the Blue Streaks were forced to punt to Mount Union running back Blair Skilliter, who burned JCU for a 33-yard return. Two plays later, the senior ran 25 yards for a touchdown, giving the Purple Raiders the lead for good.
Burke added to the lead on his team’s next possession, tossing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Denton. The Blue and Gold were not beaten yet, as Myers connected with junior running back Randy Greenwood for a 30-yard touchdown to bring the score to 21-17 with 7:18 remaining in the 2nd quarter. But two Burke touchdowns would put the game out of reach. The first came at the end of a 14-play, 85-yard drive, when Burke scored on a 12-yard run. On Mount Union’s next possession, Burke connected with Collins once again, this time for an 80-yard bomb on the first play of the drive. Suddenly, the Blue and Gold were trailing 35-17 going into halftime.
In the second half, it was all Mount Union. Burke and the offense added on three more touchdowns and a field goal, while the Raiders’ top- ranked defense in the nation shut down Myers and the Blue Streaks offense. A promising start to the game for the Blue and Gold ended in a tough 59-17 loss to end the season.
Despite the result, head coach Regis Scafe remained positive. “We battled all year, including tonight; we never gave up,” he said. “I am very proud of this team … we played with class and had a lot of adversity to overcome.”
The Blue and Gold finished the season with a 6-4 record, losing their last two games against Heidelberg and Mount Union. Though the season did not result in a playoff appearance, the future remains bright for the Blue Streaks. Playmakers such as Myers, sophomore linebacker Kevin Cope, junior wideout Alex Kline, Randy Greenwood and sophomore defensive lineman Frank Pines will all be back next year. Some young, talented players, such as sophomore running back Dominic De La Riva and sophomore linebacker Jimmy King, are also quickly climbing up the depth chart. Blue Streaks fans definitely have reason to hope that next year will be a breakout season for JCU.