Two fourth quarter touchdowns and timely defensive stops pulled the #10 ranked John Carroll Blue Streaks from the precipice of a history-making upset bid, knocking off the previously undefeated Marietta Pioneers, 27-24, on a strange weather-impacted Saturday afternoon at Don Shula Stadium.
The game featured a 30-minute lightning delay, four lead changes, and a number of big plays on both sides.
John Carroll spotted Marietta ten points to start the game. The first seven points were the result of a Javi Zaragoza interception which set up the Pioneers at the JCU 29-yard line. The visitors needed just three plays to open the scoring, as reigning OAC Player of the Week Darrien Fields ran the ball in to the end zone from 16 yards out.
Marietta then mounted an impressive 79 yard drive that reached the one-yard line. But the Blue Streak defense held firm, and the Pioneers settled for an 18-yard field goal from Jimmy Embrescia.
Trailing 10-0, the John Carroll offense responded by scoring on its next two possessions. Michael Canganelli ended the first drive with a one yard scoring plunge to cap an 8-play, 65-yard trek. Canganelli finished the next one, this time from 19 yards out, to give John Carroll its first lead, 14-10, with 2:34 to play in the half.
Marietta impressively drove the length of the field, and even survived adversity, to take a 17-14 lead into the locker room. After getting down to the 11-yard line, a sack by JCU linebacker Jerome Brundidge and a personal foul penalty set the Pioneers back to the JCU 27-yard line. On the final play of the half, Fields found Nate Van Meter for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Embrescia's PAT made the score 17-14 in favor of the Pios.
John Carroll sputtered at the start of the third quarter, and after a punt, Marietta picked up two first downs before lightning interrupted play.
Upon resumption, the Pioneers' drive stalled and JCU took over and promptly made a march into enemy territory. After ten plays and 64 yards, the Blue Streaks attempted a 39-yard field goal, but Matt Danko missed wide left.
Marietta immediately seized momentum back. On the third play after the missed field goal, Tanner Clark broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run. Embrescia's extra point put the Pioneers out front, 24-14, with 4:29 left in the third quarter.
Those would be the Pioneers' final points, but it took until a third of the way into the fourth quarter for the JCU offense to take charge.
The first two drives for John Carroll after falling behind by ten points ended on downs inside Marietta territory, but the third and fourth ended in the end zone.
Winning the field position battle was key, as John Carroll drove 44 yards in four plays to pull to within 24-21. Devin Limerick scored on a 13-yard run for the score, with Danko adding the extra point.
After forcing Marietta to turn the ball over on downs at its own 34, JCU again took just four plays to score. Limerick scored from nine yards out to give the Blue Streaks their first lead of the second half with 5:21 to play. The extra point was missed.
The JCU defense then took over. After Clark's touchdown run, Marietta's final five drives covered four, minus-20, nine, minus-seven and 17 yards -- the last two after the Blue Streaks took the lead.
John Carroll (6-1, 5-1 OAC) finished the game with 426 yards of offense, led by Canganelli's 165 yards rushing. Limerick added 37 on the ground as JCU scored all four touchdowns via the running game.
Anthony Moeglin threw for 240 yards with Darrin Davis (83), Eddie Williamson (56) and Evan Nugent (54) all over 50 yards receiving.
Reigning OAC Defensive Player of the Week Chad Stalnaker led the JCU side with 13 tackles, while Brundidge added 11. The Blue Streaks, who led Division III in sacks to start the day with 33, added four more today.
Marietta (6-1, 5-1 OAC), which was looking to go 7-0 for the first time as well as beat John Carroll for the first time in its history, was led by 142 rushing yards from Clark.