The John Carroll University football team hosts an opening round NCAA Tournament game for the second consecutive year on Saturday, Nov. 22 at noon at Don Shula Stadium.
In last year’s contest, the Blue Streaks fell to St. John Fisher College, 25-16, in a game in which weather played a huge factor.
This time around, JCU hosts undefeated Centre College.
Aside from a couple close calls against Washington and Lee University and Rhodes College, the Colonels took care of nearly every team they played with ease.
The one knock on the Colonels, though, is that their level of competition has been nothing compared to that of many teams in the tournament, including JCU.
Over the course of the season, JCU played two top 25 teams. The Blue Streaks defeated Heidelberg University, 43-16, while they were ranked in the top 25, and just last week faced off against number three Mount Union.
Centre has not played any team all season that has been in the top 25 or is in the NCAA Tournament field.
Still, the Colonels are not to be taken lightly, as they have an array of weapons on both sides of the ball.
Led by quarterback Heath Haden, Centre is a team that can score in bunches when given the chance. Haden has thrown for over 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns this year, while being intercepted only four times.
Haden is also apt on his feet. The senior has over 500 rushing yards and six touchdowns this year. While Haden has fumbled twice, he’s still a threat on the ground, and the JCU defense is going to have its hands full with this experience at the helm.
On the defensive side of the ball, similarly to JCU, Centre thrives on turnovers. The Colonels have a plus 14 turnover margin this year, which is 17th in DIII and are only allowing 15 points per game, ranking 30th in DIII.
It will be a difficult task for Centre, though, as Myers has been one of the hardest passers to intercept in all of DIII football. While he did have two last week, Myers was going up against the best defense in the nation in Mount Union. Other than that game, Myers has only thrown one all season.
Along with Myers, look for another huge game from running back Tommy Michals. The senior is coming off arguably the most impressive game of his career, tearing apart the number one defense in the country for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
Expect the Blue Streaks to go to Michals early and often against the Colonels, because if JCU gets Michals going, it opens up the passing game even more for Myers, which is one of the deadliest scenarios for JCU opponents.
On defense, look for the same domination from the Blue Streaks. The teams front line, led by junior David Porter, has been a force to be reckoned with all season. The push the defensive line gets has allowed the linebackers to drop back in coverage more. Against a Centre team that has such a dual-threat weapon in Haden, the “big uglies” is going to be the key for JCU.
It’s going to be a battle for both teams come Saturday. Centre is here to prove they belong with the big dogs despite their weak schedule, and the Blue Streaks are looking to bounce back from a game they feel was stolen away from them.
A rematch with Mount Union is possible in the elite eight, and JCU wants that rematch. That road beings on Saturday at Don Shula Stadium.