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Key blocked PAT leads to victory in OAC opener

September 24th, 2015

Football’s most overlooked play had a critical role in Saturday’s John Carroll University vs. Heidelberg University game in Tiffin, Ohio.

Following a 10-play, 62-yard touchdown drive, Heidelberg held a 16-7 lead. With 11:39 remaining in the third quarter, Heidelberg kicker Stephen Smith lined up for the point after touchdown (PAT) that would make it a 10-point affair. Then, the game changed dramatically.

Junior Mike Hollins charged in from the edge to block Smith’s kick. Hollins then scooped up the ball and sprinted 98 yards to the opposite end zone. His play gave JCU two points, narrowing the deficit to seven points.

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The Blue Streaks controlled the remainder of the game. Heidelberg gained just 64 yards on its final five drives, including a meager one yard in the fourth quarter. The JCU offense drove deep inside Heidelberg territory four times, emerging with 14 points and a 23-16 victory.

With the win, the Blue Streaks advance to 2-0 overall, 1-0 in Ohio Athletic Conference play.

The game did not start well for the Blue and Gold. As the JCU offense sputtered on its first two drives, the Student Princes took an early 3-0 lead on a school-record 49-yard AJ Morrison field goal.

The Blue Streaks appeared poised to score on the following drive, as Marshall Howell returned Morrison’s kickoff 87 yards to the Heidelberg 13-yard line. However, three plays later, Jake Schaefer fumbled the snap and the Student Princes recovered. Quarterback Jon Sandwisch then orchestrated a 9-play, 87-yard drive that concluded with a 41-yard Bryan Lacey touchdown run.

The JCU offense continued to sputter until late in the second quarter when Schaefer found tight end Mark Baniewicz in the back of the end zone for six. Following the extra point, the Blue Streaks trailed 10-7 heading into halftime.

Hollins’ big play in the third quarter seemed to quiet both offenses, as the teams traded turnovers in the third quarter. The JCU offense awakened in the fourth, as Schaefer led a 10-play, 42-yard drive capped off by a quarterback sneak. Schaefer’s score tied the game at 16.

On Heidelberg’s next offensive play, the JCU defense made its mark. Senior David Porter forced a critical fumble that freshman Ray Brown recovered. Three plays later, Schaefer found a wide-open Howell for a 37-yard touchdown with 3:39 remaining in the game.

The Blue Streaks finished off the Student Princes by forcing a turnover on downs and then running the clock out for the road win.

Schaefer scored all three touchdowns in a solid day marred only by three turnovers. Sophomore Arin Pruitt also played a critical role in the win. The running back shouldered the offensive load for much of the day, carrying the ball 31 times for 114 yards. On defense, Porter led the team with 12 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks.

JCU takes the field next on Saturday, Sept. 26 as they travel to Berea, Ohio for a matchup with Baldwin Wallace University. The Blue Streaks have beaten the Yellow Jackets the last two times the OAC rivals have faced off.