ASHLAND, VA – Johns Hopkins head football coach Jim Margraff had seen this script before; on the road at Randolph-Macon in the season opener and facing a quick early deficit. In both 2006 and 2008 his Blue Jays had fallen behind by 14, only to storm back and win 21-14 in ’06 and 39-31 in triple overtime two years later.
This time, the Blue Jays altered the script sooner and didn’t need any late-game heroics as they rolled up 523 yards of total offense in a 38-14 victory at Day Field Saturday afternoon. The win is the 11th in the last 15 season-openers for the Blue Jays, who are ranked in top 20 in three preseason polls, including 17th by D3football.com.
The Yellow Jackets got a great return on the opening kickoff of the game and started with possession at the Blue Jay 44-yard line. Six plays and just 2:34 later Randolph-Macon had an early 7-0 lead as junior quarterback Zac Naccarato found senior tight end Matt Williamson in the back of the end zone to cap the game-opening scoring drive.
After a moving from their own 25 to the RMC 28 on their ensuing possession, the Blue Jays failed to convert on a fourth down play, but quickly forced a Yellow Jacket punt that was downed at the JHU 11.
The Blue Jays quickly went to work, keeping the drive alive early with a pair of third-down conversions, and senior quarterback Robbie Matey connected with senior receiver Bob D’Orazio for a 29-yard gain that set the Blue Jays up inside the Randolph-Macon 10-yard line. One play later, Hopkins executed a perfect wide receiver screen that sophomore Ryan Finkel carried into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
The tie didn’t last long as JHU forced a quick three-and-out and then went 72 yards in 15 plays with Matey firing his second touchdown pass – a 16-yard strike to senior tight end Brendan Hartman – to give the Blue Jays the lead for good at 14-7 with just over nine minutes remaining before the half.
A stand by the Randolph-Macon defense inside its own 10-yard line on JHU’s final possession of the first half kept the Blue Jay lead at seven, but it didn’t take long in the second half for the Blue Jays to double that margin.
Starting at their own 37, the Blue Jays mixed the run and pass effectively and needed just over two minutes to push their lead to 21-7 with senior JD Abbott going over from two yards out to cap the drive. A 19-yard pass from Matey to Abbott on fourth-and-three at the RMC-28 kept the drive alive.
A 26-yard field goal by freshman Nick Campbell on JHU’s next possession gave Hopkins a 24-7 lead, but the `Jackets weren’t finished and only a goal line stand by the Blue Jays kept Macon from getting closer than 10.
The `Jackets had a first-and-goal form the Blue Jay five-yard line on the drive after Campbell’s field goal, but senior Mike Zikoski tackled Will McGhee for a three-yard loss on third-and-goal from the one and a Naccarato’s pass fell incomplete in the end zone on fourth down and JHU held it’s 17-point lead into the final period.
Naccarato and McGhee hooked up midway through the fourth quarter on a perfectly executed screen pass and McGhee raced 45 yards for a touchdown to pull RMC within 10 at 24-14 with 7:19 remaining.
The final seven minutes were vintage Hopkins offense as the Blue Jays used nine plays to go 74 yards in 3:02 with Abbott sweeping left for a six-yard touchdown that answered McGhee’s scamper and freshman Dionisio Roman added the first touchdown of his career on a 12-yard run of his own with just over two minutes remaining to close the scoring.
Matey enjoyed one of the finest games of his career as he was 31-of-42 for 318 yards with the two early touchdown passes. The 318 yards are the second-most ever by a Johns Hopkins quarterback in a season-opener. Finkel had a career-high eight receptions for 63 yards and the one score to lead a balanced effort that saw Matey find 11 different receivers on the day.
Defensively, the Blue Jays held the Yellow Jackets to 280 yards of total offense, including just 29 yards on 28 rushing attempts. Chris Ibrahim led the Blue Jay defense with five tackles in his first start at safety, John Arena, Michael Longoand Charles Strippoli all picked up sacks and the Blue Jays held the `Jackets to just 4-of-12 on third down and snuffed out all four fourth-down attempts by Randolph-Macon.
Naccarato threw for 243 yards and the two scores, but McGhee, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season, was held to 15 yards on 13 carries. Christian Cook was Naccarato’s favorite target as he had eight catches for 118 yards.
Johns Hopkins will return to action next Saturday when the Blue Jays welcome Susquehanna to Homewood Field.