GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- If Johns Hopkins can shorten a lengthy list of mistakes and learn to win on the road, the Blue Jays could be a dominant force in the Centennial Football Conference.
That day isn't here yet. The Blue Jays had their way at Gettysburg College for more than 55 minutes, but surrendered two touchdowns in the final 2 minutes, 34 seconds to drop a stunning, 20-19 decision to the underdog Bullets before 2,879 fans yesterday. The decisive points came with 44 seconds left on a fourth-down, 5-yard pass from Gettysburg sophomore quarterback Jamie Steier to Bryant Hill.
Under second-year coach Jim Margraff, Hopkins (2-1-1) was in position to secure its best start since the 1920s, but instead fell to 1-1 in the CFC. Gettysburg, which fell short in similar fashion two weeks ago against CFC leader Western Maryland, is 2-2 overall, 2-1 in the conference.
"I just told the kids, I certainly made mistakes today," Margraff said. "So did the offense, the defense and the kicking game."
Hopkins' young defense, using five freshmen in a seven-man rotation up front, manhandled the Bullets in the first half, allowing three first downs and 61 yards. But it withered after the Blue Jays' offense awoke long enough to build a seemingly comfortable 19-7 lead with 11:22 left.
The Blue Jays' defense continued to shine on Gettysburg's next three series, but softened when the Bullets took possession on their 10-yard line with 4:48 left. The final 21 yards of a 13-play, 90-yard drive came on a swing pass from Steier to running back John Conte with 2:34 left.
A conversion pass failed, leaving Hopkins clinging to a 19-13 lead.
Three plays after the kickoff, junior running back Paul Ferreri appeared to seal the outcome with a 15-yard run up the middle for a first down, but he fumbled, giving the Bullets possession on the Blue Jays' 38-yard line with 1:40 remaining.
Gettysburg quickly created a second-and-goal situation at the 1-yard line, but linebacker Ed Lineen dropped Conte for a 4-yard loss, and a flea-flicker intended for Steier was incomplete on third down.
On fourth-and-goal from the 5, with 54 seconds left, Gettysburg won it the hard way, Steier finding tight end Hill despite strong coverage by senior free safety Brian Hepting and senior cornerback Mark Gorius. Tod Creneti's point-after kick provided the margin of victory.
"It [tying touchdown] was well-defended," Margraff said. "The tight end just made a fine play."
The reversal was stunning, because eight of Gettysburg's first 13 possessions resulted in three downs and a punt. The Bullets needed deception to get their first score, as a shovel pass from Steier to Conte covered 37 yards and set up a 7-yard run by Creneti on a fake field goal with four minutes gone in the second half.
Frequently provided with good field position, the Hopkins' offense piled up 338 yards, but turned the ball over four times and had many penalties.