The Cuyahoga Gold Bowl will remain in University Heights for another year.
In a defensive duel, the John Carroll University football team outlasted Baldwin Wallace University, 17-14, in Berea, Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 26.
For the second straight game, the JCU defense needed a stop in the final minutes to secure the victory. Needing only a field goal to tie, the Yellow Jackets faced a 4th and 4 at the JCU 42-yard line with 1:14 remaining.
Up to that point, the Yellow Jackets had no trouble running the ball. BW finished the day with 200 rushing yards, as quarterback Tyler Moeglin, running back Austin Smith, and tailback Adam Blake each ended the game with over 50 yards apiece.
Feeling confident in the ground game, BW called an option play. Moeglin rolled to his left, with Smith waiting in the wings for the ball. Feeling a JCU defender approaching, Moeglin tossed the ball back to Smith. The pitch did not fool the Blue Streaks, as sophomore Ray Brewster stopped Smith a yard short of the first down.
The defensive stand ensured a third straight victory over Baldwin Wallace, the longest JCU winning streak over the crosstown rival since 2002. With the victory, the Blue Streaks improved to 3-0, 2-0 in Ohio Athletic Conference play.
After starting slow in the previous two weeks, the Blue Streaks fired up an early scoring drive against the Yellow Jackets.
Following an early three-and-out by the offense, junior cornerback Mike Hollins picked off Moeglin for an early shift of momentum. Sophomore Arin Pruitt built on the defensive play, dashing 58 yards on a run behind the dominant left side of the JCU offensive line. Five plays later, freshman Jake Vivonetto gave the Blue Streaks a 3-0 lead with a 29-yard field goal.
The big run was of no surprise, Pruitt explained: “Our game plan was, for the most part, simple. We knew we could run on BW so we really worked hard in practice on executing in the run game and getting correct blocks. Our line did a great job throughout the week and it really showed in the game.”
On its next drive, BW made it clear the Blue and Gold would not have an easy day in Berea. Moeglin orchestrated a 9-play, 58-yard drive that he finished with a five-yard touchdown run. The Blue Streaks attempted to muster a response on the next drive, but the Yellow Jackets halted senior quarterback Jake Schaefer and the offense on 4th and 2 from the BW 17.
The teams traded punts for the next 10 minutes, until Schaefer led the Blue Streaks down the field for a touchdown. Schaefer found senior Jordan D’Orazio in the end zone for an easy 4-yard score with 30 seconds remaining, granting JCU a 10-7 lead at halftime.
The JCU offense continued to have success early in the second half. Pruitt capped off a 12-play, 53-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:52 left in the third quarter. The Blue Streaks looked safe with a 17-7 lead, but the Yellow Jackets soon stormed back.
At the beginning of a promising JCU drive late in the third quarter, Schaefer tossed an interception into the outstretched arms of BW defensive back Theodore Washington. A facemask penalty on the Blue Streaks then granted BW even better field position at the JCU 23-yard line.
The Yellow Jackets needed just five plays to score, as Moeglin again found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Moeglin’s scamper narrowed BW’s deficit to just three.
Schaefer, and a surprisingly quiet JCU offense, picked up just one first down on its next two drives, allowing BW one final gasp before the JCU defense halted the Yellow Jackets in the final minutes.
The Blue Streaks now hold the overall series advantage over BW, 26-25-4, and also lead BW in the Cuyahoga Gold Bowl series, 14-13.
Pruitt led JCU with 114 yards on 19 carries, but even the sophomore believes the Blue Streaks can do better.
“I think the biggest thing we need to improve on to beat ONU is our execution in the passing game,” said Pruitt. “We had a few missed opportunities that we make everyday in practice. Our quarterback, Jake Schaefer is a huge leader in our offense so I have no doubt that he will have the offense ready for Saturday.”
The Blue Streaks will play next on Saturday, Oct. 3 as JCU will host its first game at Don Shula Stadium this season. Ohio Northern University (2-1, 1-1) will be JCU’s opponent for Homecoming weekend.
In the Blue Streaks’ matchup with the Polar Bears last year, ONU gave JCU all they could handle. The Polar Bears were up seven heading into the final quarter, but the Blue Streaks mounted a late comeback, scoring 10 points in the final 15 minutes, defeating ONU 17-10.
JCU is currently on a three-game win streak against ONU and leads the overall series historically, 17-11, including an 8-6 record at home. The last time the Polar Bears defeated the Blue Streaks in University Heights was on Oct. 23, 2010, when ONU bested JCU by a score of 35-14.