BALTIMORE, MD – In the only Division III football game in the nation this weekend featuring two teams ranked in the top 25, it was host Johns Hopkins prevailing against Muhlenberg as the Blue Jays jumped to a 21-0 halftime lead and held off a second-half rally by the Mules for a 27-16 victory at Homewood Field Saturday afternoon.
Johns Hopkins, which entered the game ranked 21st in the AFCA Poll and 23rd by D3football.com, improves to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in the Centennial Conference, while the Mules, who were 22nd in the AFCA Poll and 18th by D3football.com, suffer their first loss of the season and slip to 7-1 overall and 6-1 in the CC.
The Blue Jays scored touchdowns on three of their six first-half possessions to grab the 21-point halftime lead that they would never relinquish.
After coming up with the first of four interceptions on the day to stop the Mules' opening drive, the Blue Jays went 86 yards in 10 plays and capped the drive with a three-yard strike from junior David Tammaro to senior Luke McFadden.
After the game-opening interception, the Blue Jay defense forced Muhlenberg to punt on its next five first-half possessions and Hopkins took control with two more long scoring drives before halftime.
After turning the ball over on downs at the Muhlenberg four-yard line, the Blue Jays needed just seven plays and 2:23 to go 58 yards early in the second quarter and a four-yard touchdown pass from Tammaro to freshman Emmett Turner doubled the seven-point lead to 14-0 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
The 14-point lead held until the final minute of the half, when Tammaro accounted for his third touchdown of the game with a five-yard run up the middle. Tammaro's scoring run was the final play in a 13-play, 81-yard drive that saw the Blue Jays convert twice on third down and once on fourth.
The first-half momentum the Blue Jays built began to fade in the third quarter as the Mules made their inevitable push. A safety midway through the period was followed just under four minutes later by a three-yard touchdown run from Mark Riggio to quickly turn the 21-0 Blue Jay lead into a 21-9 deficit.
Johns Hopkins answered the Riggio touchdown with its best drive of the second half, an 11-play, 78-yard drive that senior Stuart Walters polished off when he bounced outside from the two-yard line to extend the Blue Jay lead to 27-9 just seven seconds into final period.
Muhlenberg would have seven fourth-quarter possessions and needed just three plays and 55 seconds to go 74 yards midway through the period to pull within 27-16 on an 11-yard touchdown reception by Max Kirin, but Johns Hopkins forced four turnovers and two punts on the other six possessions to seal the 11-point victory.
Down 11 in the final seven minutes, the Mules twice had the ball inside Johns Hopkins territory, but Finn Zechman intercepted a Mike Hnatkowsky pass at the Blue Jay one-yard line to stop one drive and Addison Quinones came up with his second interception of the game at the Blue Jay 28 on the Mules' next possession.
The Blue Jay defense, which forced six turnovers in a game for the first time since 2010, came up with our interceptions, totaled three sacks and limited Muhlenberg to just 4-of-14 on third-down chances. The Blue Jays also had 11 pass breakups on the day.
Freshman Robert Fletcher led the Blue Jay defense with nine tackles and added three pass breakups, while Quinones added six tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups of his own.
Tammaro was 19-of-39 for 262 yards and the two touchdowns and also rushed for 43 yards and the one score. Ryan Hubley had nine receptions for a career-high 161 yards and Walters led the Blue Jay rushing attack with 69 yards and the one touchdown.
Hnatkowsky was 23-of-44 for 278 yards, but tossed the four interceptions. Kirin was his favorite target as he had 12 receptions for 132 yards and the one score; Riggio rushed for a team-high 53 yards and the one score.
Frankie Feaster led the Muhlenberg defense with nine tackles, including five for losses and all three Mule sacks, and added two forced fumbles and one pass breakup.
Johns Hopkins will return to action on Saturday, November 3 when the Blue Jays travel to Junita for another Centennial Conference game against the Eagles (1 pm).
Notes: Walters tied the Johns Hopkins record for career touchdowns as his one score today was the 51st of his career – he ties Andrew Kase (2006-09) • Tammaro tied Jonathan Germano for second place on JHU's career 200-yard passing games list with his 18th • JHU has now won 29 straight games in the month of October and 35-1 in games played after its bye week since 2011.
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