BALTIMORE, MD -- The 14th-ranked Johns Hopkins football team scored back-to-back second-half touchdowns to erase a 17-14 deficit and then held off a late rally by visiting Franklin & Marshall to pull out a 28-23 victory against the Diplomats at Homewood Field Saturday afternoon. Johns Hopkins, which trailed 10-0 midway through the second quarter, won for the 14th straight time dating back to last season and improves to 9-0 overall and 8-0 in the Centennial Conference.
One week after securing the Centennial's automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Playoffs and no worse than a share of the Centennial Conference title with a 37-9 victory against Ursinus, the Blue Jays took the league title outright with the win today as they now have a two-game lead with just one game remaining.
The Diplomats took a 17-14 lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass from senior John Harrison to Brian Kelly with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The touchdown pass capped a stunning 16-play, 91-yard drive that ate more than nine minutes off the clock.
Unfazed, the Blue Jays needed just 2:19 to take the lead for good with junior Scott Barletta's two-yard run polishing off an eight-play, 65-yard drive that included a 28-yard completion from senior Hewitt Tomlin to sophomore Dan Wodicka on a third-and-seven from the JHU 38 and a 30-yard strike from Tomlin to junior Scott Cremens. The completion to Cremens set the Blue Jays up at the F&M four-yard line and Barletta went over two plays later.
After F&M sandwiched a pair of six-play drives that ended in punts around a three-and-out by the Blue Jays, Johns Hopkins gave itself some breathing room with a nifty seven-play, 67-yard drive that included three Tomlin-to-Cremens completions, the last of which went four yards for a touchdown to give Hopkins a 28-17 lead with 3:21 remaining.
The lead stayed at 11 points for less than a minute as Harrison needed just 48 seconds and six plays to move the Diplomats 63 yards and he covered the final 17 yards of the drive with a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone that Tim Muller caught between a pair of defenders to make it 28-23. The Diplomats' two-point attempt failed.
F&M attempted an onsides kick after the touchdown, but JHU's Dan Keenancovered the ball at the Diplomat 40-yard line. Hopkins was able to run out the final 2:27 and kneeled down twice inside the F&M five-yard line as the clock wound down to seal the victory.
The Diplomats came in with a ball-control game plan that mixed runs with short passes and they worked the plan to perfection. A 28-yard Chris DeStefano field goal opened the scoring midway through the first quarter and Harrison hit Jordan Zackery with a wide receiver screen midway through the second quarter that Zackery took 77-yards for a touchdown to make it 10-0.
Wodicka then got the Blue Jays back in the game with two big plays in the final eight minutes of the first half.
He took a strike from Tomlin down the middle of the field and outraced the Diplomat secondary to the end zone just 32 seconds after Zackery's touchdown to slice the deficit to 10-7 with 7:32 remaining in the second quarter.
F&M moved the ball out to midfield on its ensuing possession before being forced to punt. E.J. Schneider's 37-yard punt pushed Wodicka back to the Blue Jay 13-yard line, but he worked his way from the middle of the field to the sideline and raced deep into F&M territory before being caught by Schneider and Lamont Jackson. The 72-yard return - the longest in school history - set the Blue Jays up at the Diplomat 15-yard line and Tomlin scored on a 10-yard run three plays later to give the Blue Jays a 14-10 lead at the half.
The 14-10 lead held until Harrison's touchdown pass to Kelly late in the third quarter, which set the stage for the back-to-back touchdowns by the Blue Jays that ultimately provided the difference in the game.
Tomlin was an efficient 18-of-26 for 219 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and the rushing touchdown. Wodicka had five receptions for 105 yards and the one score to go along with his record-breaking punt return, while Cremens added five catches for 63 yards and his ninth touchdown reception of the season. Taylor Maciowled the Blue Jay defense with a career-high 14 tackles, including 1.5 for losses and one sack.
In a matchup of the two all-time leading passers in Centennial Conference history, Harrison more than held his own as he was 23-of-33 for 302 yards with three touchdowns. Muller and Paul McGann each had six receptions for the Diplomats, who rolled up 430 yards of total offense and controlled the ball for 40 minutes in nearly pulling off the upset. John Kaschak rushed for 86 yards to lead the way on the ground for F&M, which fell to Johns Hopkins for the fourth straight time and the 14th time in the last 15 meetings.
Johns Hopkins will travel to McDaniel next Saturday to close the regular season. A win would give the Blue Jays the first perfect regular season in school history.
- 30 -