“Defense wins championships.”
It’s a motto heard across the sports world time and time again. A motto that the John Carroll University football program seems to believe in.
For the second year in a row, the Blue Streaks opened up the season with a shutout.
After 2013’s 41-0 trouncing of St. Norbert, JCU kicked off its 2014 campaign with a 44-0 win over St. Vincent College.
Granted, The Bearcats haven’t won a collegiate football game since 2011, but the point remains the same: the suffocating JCU defense is back.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Schaefer started the game for the Blue Streaks over the injured Mark Myers, but only lasted until midway through the first quarter when senior Wes Keller took over and rejuvenated the JCU offense.
In his first five minutes of playing time, Keller lead the Blue Streaks on three scoring drives. Keller was blessed with a short field on Saturday, as all of his first half scoring drives started in Bearcat territory.
A 19-yard touchdown catch from last year’s leading receiver Aramis Greenwood opened the scoring for JCU with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
After a diving interception by sophomore Reese Armstrong on St. Vincent’s following drive, Keller wasted no time. This time, he hooked up with sophomore Marshall Howell on a 36-yard touchdown pass down the seam.
Senior running back Tommy Michals added two touchdown rushes of his own in the first half to send the Blue Streaks into the break with a 28-0 lead.
While the offense did its part, the JCU defense continued to dominate. The first half consisted of six forced punts and two interceptions that carried over into the second half. The Bearcats continued to struggle to find any way around the different packages the Blue Streaks threw at them.
“Everyone on our defense was focused the entire game and knew what we wanted to achieve,” said Armstrong. “The leadership on our defense is second to none and I think that contributed to our success.”
The Bearcats, throughout the entire second half, trotted out three different quarterbacks to try and change the look against the JCU defense, but alas, nothing changed.
The Blue Streaks dug in deeper and managed to force five punts and a safety, all while holding St. Vincent to just nine yards of total offense in the second half.
Keller began the second half off with just as much zip as he had in the first. He connected with Howell for a second time, this time for 25 yards to give JCU a 35-0 lead.
Schaefer returned soon after that to toss a touchdown of his own to junior receiver Rich Miller for the final score of the game, putting the cap on the 44-0 victory.
It was an important, confidence building win for the Blue Streaks as they head into a bye week before their Ohio Athletic Conference opener at home against Heidelberg University on Sept. 20.
“I think there is still a lot of work that we have to on the offensive side of the ball,” said Keller. “The defense helped us out tremendously after we turned the ball over a couple times, but with the amount of penalties that we had on special teams and the turnovers [we had]on offense, I feel good about having this week off to clean up everything and be ready for a great Heidelberg team.”
JCU headed into last year’s Heidelberg game at 8-0 and with all the confidence in the world. They hope to enter the Sept. 20th game with a similar mentality.