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Defense crushes Yellow Jackets in Gold Bowl win

September 26th, 2013

Over the years, football has evolved into a high-scoring sport dominated by the passing game.

On Saturday night, John Carroll University turned back the clock.

Senior DaQuan Grobsmith rushed for 115 yards and the Blue Streaks defense forced three turnovers in a 27-7 victory over the Baldwin Wallace University Yellow Jackets in Berea, Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 21.

The win marks the first Blue Streaks victory over the Yellow Jackets at George Finnie Stadium since 2001, when head coach Tom Arth was the JCU quarterback.

It was also the first time since 2008 that JCU has defeated a ranked team, as Baldwin Wallace was ranked No. 23 in the nation by D3Football.com entering last weekend’s action.

The victory in the 25th annual Cuyahoga Gold Bowl drew JCU closer in the all-time series, though Baldwin Wallace still leads in the rivalry, 13-12.

The Blue Streaks defense held the Yellow Jackets to just 168 yards, including 49 passing yards on only five completions.

Neither team was able to draw blood in the first quarter. After trading punts with the Yellow Jackets on the first two drives, the Blue Streaks were backed up deep in their own territory.

On a 2nd-and-10 play from his own 30, junior quarterback Mark Myers challenged the Yellow Jackets secondary and was intercepted by Kevin Krakora, who returned the ball 27 yards.

The JCU defense held strong, forcing a punt after the turnover.

The Blue Streaks would then rip off a 12-play drive that took nearly six minutes off of the clock. It ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Myers to junior Alex Kline with 11:49 left in the second quarter.

That was Myers’ only touchdown pass of the day. He finished with 258 passing yards on  19 completions. Freshman wideout Marshall Howell was the Myers’ top target, hauling in six passes for 116 yards.

After the touchdown, both defenses settled in, allowing no points until the final moments of the second quarter.

Myers drove the team down the field, connecting on 13 and 25-yard passes to Howell. With 24 seconds on the clock, the Blue Streaks lined up in the “wildcat” formation with senior Randy Greenwood under center.

Baldwin Wallace called a timeout to force a decision from Arth. The rookie head coach did not blink.

Greenwood trotted out in the same formation and ran into the end zone six seconds later, giving JCU a 14-0 lead with 18 seconds left before half.

On the ensuing kickoff, Kevin Johnson returned the ball from the goal line before getting the ball knocked away by senior Mitch Krotz at the 28-yard line.

Freshman Reese Armstrong fell on the ball, setting up a career long 45-yard field goal from junior Kresimir Ivkovic that gave the Blue Streaks a 17-0 lead at half time.

Baldwin Wallace left the locker room ready to sling the ball after throwing just twice in the first half.

On 3rd-and-11 from their own 24, Slack was picked off by senior Ryan Winchell at the 36-yard line.

Five plays later, JCU extended the lead to 20-0 off a 28-yard field goal by Ivkovic.

BWU coach Jon Snell made a drastic change after the field goal, benching Slack for senior Kyle Ohradzansky.

Initially, it looked like a brilliant move. Ohradzansky rolled down the field in just over four minutes, giving the Yellow Jackets a chance with a 9-yard pass to Kyle Dunne with 8:46 left in the third quarter.

The JCU offense whittled away at a fatigued Yellow Jackets defense, driving down to the 6-yard line.

DaQuan Grobsmith put an exclamation point on his stellar night with a 6-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter, making the score 27-7.

The veteran back made a clear statement about his abilities after the running game failed to produce a feature back in the first game.

Grobsmith now stands at 1,824 career rushing yards, good for fifth all-time in JCU history.

JCU brought the final hammer down at the end of the next drive. Ohradzansky marched the Yellow Jackets down the field once again, but JCU stopped them on four consecutive plays inside the JCU red zone.

Slack would re-enter the game, and was intercepted by Brody Zangaro with 4:37 left. Zangaro picked off the Yellow Jackets again in the final minute, sealing the outcome.

One kneel down triggered a Blue and Gold celebration at midfield, as the losing streak in Berea was finally over.

Krotz was named John Carroll’s Lee Tressel Shriner Class Player of the Game. He recorded 15.5 tackles and 0.5 sacks, including 3.5 tackles for loss. The Miami University transfer has carved out a home for himself in the middle of the Blue Streaks’ defense just two weeks into the season.

“I try to be a student of the game,” Krotz said. “It’s a new defense for all of us, but the other guys are really helping with the learning process.”

Arth was impressed with the effort of his team in their first Ohio Athletic Conference test of 2013.

“I thought our team played very well as a unit,” Arth said. “We did a lot of good things. Baldwin Wallace is a very talented group. They’re very difficult to prepare for and I thought we handled that well.”

In Arth’s first two games as head coach, the Blue Streaks have outscored opponents 68-7.

Myers leads the OAC in passing yards per game (392) and touchdowns (5), while Howell ranks first among all receivers with 131.5 yards per game.

The team ranks as the top defense in the OAC, allowing just 148.5 yards per game, including just 57 yards through the air.

“Coach [Brandon] Staley is a great defensive coordinator and his scheme always sets us up to make plays,” sophomore Dave Porter said. “We’ve all become brothers through hard work. The scariest thing is, we haven’t reached our full potential yet.”

The dominant effort over two games even earned the Blue Streaks national recognition.

Voters at D3Football.com awarded the Blue Streaks 33 points, two short of the total needed to jump over winless Cal Widener and put JCU at No. 25 in the nation.

Up next for the Blue Streaks is a matchup on Sept. 28 with the Otterbein University Cardinals at Don Shula Stadium at 7:00 p.m.

At OAC Media Day, both Baldwin Wallace and Otterbein were ranked directly above JCU in the media and coaches’ poll.

After the vote, junior Aramis Greenwood made it clear that the team would not take the poll lightly.

“Only we know how good we are,” Greenwood said. “We are not a fifth place team.”

After the first two weeks, the Blue Streaks have made that clear to the rest of the conference.