WASHINGTON — If key interregional matchups will determine
the runner-up bids in this year's expanded 28-team tournament, then
today's Catholic-John Carroll game will have big implications. And
I know it's Week 1, but if today's game was any indication, neither
of these teams will be playing come Nov. 20.
Catholic's defense had holes big enough to drive a Mack truck through. And their special teams continue to be a problem, as they were in last year's 45-14 playoff loss to Lycoming. John Carroll, on the other hand, managed only eight first downs (three of them in the end zone) and completed only eight of 19 passes.
If there's any satisfaction to be gained from this game, a 26-21 John Carroll win in conditions ranging from overcast-yet-ideal to raging downpour, it's that each team rallied from a deficit to take the lead.
"Things looked bad for a while," said John Carroll head coach Regis Scafe, in his first year at the Blue Streaks' helm. "I'm happy to get out of it with a 'W.' "
Catholic spotted John Carroll a 14-0 lead before Carroll starting quarterback Eric Marcy even touched the ball. Senior tailback Bobby Kraft returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, then senior Tom Rini picked up a Mike Hunter fumble on Catholic's first play from scrimmage and returned it 30 yards for a score.
The Cardinals gave up an 80-yard touchdown run by Kraft before rallying to take a 21-20 lead into the fourth quarter. However, sophomore quarterback Derek McGee threw one of his three interceptions on third-and-goal on John Carroll's 8-yard line. The ball was returned to the 36, and on the next play the Blue Streaks were back in the end zone.
"We have to feel great about getting back and getting a lead," said Catholic coach Tom Clark, "but it was probably spotting them 14 points that killed us.
"You have to realize, there's probably only one team in the country that's better than them and that's the team that beats them every year in the conference, Mount Union."
Defense was Carroll's strong point, completely shutting down Catholic's trademark screen passing game and sealing off running back Andrew Notarfrancesco's holes, holding him to 3.4 yards per carry. However, quarterback might be a concern, as Marcy found himself on the sidelines in the second quarter after an interception and the game's only sack. He finished 2-for-7 passing. And take out Kraft's long touchdown run and the rest of the team rushed 31 times for 39 yards. There's only one sack to bring that total down.
Regardless, the Blue Streaks will soon find out where they stand, as three-time defending national champion Mount Union looms Oct. 2. "They're a phenomenal program," said Scafe, "but we have to look to our next game. They're always in the back of your mind. We have to improve before then."