WESTMINSTER, MD – The 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins football team withstood its biggest challenge of the season on Saturday as the Blue Jays came from behind three times to knock off rival McDaniel, 28-24, at Bair Stadium. The win secures the first undefeated regular season in school history for the Blue Jays, who improve to 10-0 overall and 9-0 in the Centennial Conference with their 15th consecutive victory. The hard-luck Terror finish the season at 2-8 with six of the eight losses by eight points or less.
Johns Hopkins, which had already secured the outright Centennial Conference title and the league’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Playoffs, will find out on Sunday night who it plays in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The Blue Jays will be making their third trip to the NCAAs under head coach Jim Margraff, who improved to 147-78-3 in 22 years at Johns Hopkins.
The Blue Jays trailed 21-14 late in the second quarter after a four-yard touchdown run by McDaniel quarterback Nick Valori. Working the two-minute offense to perfection, the Blue Jays needed just five plays and 39 seconds to go 70 yards with senior Hewitt Tomlin capping the drive with a 28-yard scoring strike to fellow senior Sam Wernick to account for a 21-21 halftime tie. Tomlin was 5-of-5 and passed for all 70 yards on the drive.
The Blue Jays took the lead for good – and their first lead of the game – midway through the third-quarter when they went quick-strike again, this time covering 89 yards in just four plays and less than 90 seconds. After a pair of runs netted nine yards and a 16-yard pass from Tomlin to sophomore Dan Wodicka gave the Blue Jays a first down at their own 34, Tomlin connected with freshman Matt Berry on a 66-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-21.
As if a rivalry game that dates back to 1894 didn’t have enough emotion, the game’s intensity jumped dramatically after the touchdown and a series of physical plays that ended in front of each team’s bench took emotions to a level not seen during Johns Hopkins’ current 11-game winning streak over the Green Terror.
A 30-yard field goal by Jake Nichols late in the third quarter drew the Terror to within 28-24, but that would be the final scoring in the game.
Johns Hopkins had two golden opportunities to extend the lead, but a pair of turnovers near the end zone ended both threats. Tomlin had a pass intercepted in the end zone by Tim McLister on the next-to-last play of the third quarter to end a 10-play, 59-yard drive that ate more than four minutes off the clock. The Blue Jays later moved the ball from their own nine-yard line to the McDaniel 35 before Tomlin hit Wernick on the outside and he raced towards the end zone before Sam Cox caught him from behind and forced a fumble that went through the end zone for a touchback with just over five minutes remaining.
The Blue Jay defense forced a quick three-and-out on McDaniel’s ensuing possession and the Blue Jays were able to run out the final 4:23 of the game to seal the win and secure the undefeated regular season.
McDaniel, playing with nothing to lose, capitalized on the first of six Johns Hopkins turnovers early in the game as the Terror recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and sophomore Joe Rollins scored on a one-yard run six plays later to stake McDaniel to an early 7-0 lead.
The Blue Jays answered late in the first quarter when junior Jonathan Rigaud swept around right end and raced 28 yards to the end zone to make 7-7.
That score lasted for less than three minutes as the Terror punched one in on the defensive side a short time later. After JHU forced a quick punt after Rigaud’s touchdown, the Blue Jays took over at their own nine-yard line. On the first play after the punt, Tomlin was hit as he threw and Sean Lajoie caught the fluttering ball at the JHU 12 and raced into the end zone to give the Terror a 14-7 lead.
Hopkins answered right back with a solid 12-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by senior Nick Fazio. The Blue Jays converted three third-down opportunities on the drive, which took nearly four minutes.
Valori’s touchdown run came eight minutes later and was answered by the Wernick’s touchdown reception just before halftime.
Tomlin was 35-of-47 for 484 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The 484 yards are the second-highest total of his career and the second highest in school history. In the process, he became the first player in school and Centennial Conference history to top 10,000 career passing yards as he now has 10,257.
Wodicka and Wernick both topped 100-yards receiving as Wodicka had 13 receptions for 159 yards, while Wernick had eight catches for 110 yards and the one score and became just the second receiver in school history to top 3,000 career receiving yards as he now has 3,023.
The Blue Jay defense held McDaniel to just 286 yards and was led by junior Taylor Maciow and senior Michael Milano, who both posted nine tackles on the day.
Rollins rushed 27 times for 136 yards and the one score, while Valori was 9-of-19 for 107 yards and added the rushing touchdown before being knocked from the game in the third quarter.