Johns Hopkins needed a win yesterday to keep its postseason hopes alive, and host McDaniel did everything it could to help.
The Green Terror's offense turned the ball over early, and Hopkins turned three of those mistakes into 17 first-half points to quickly take command en route to a 17-3 victory over McDaniel. The Blue Jays clinched a share of the Centennial Conference title with the victory before 3,900 at Scott S. Bair Stadium in Westminster.
But Hopkins' postseason future remains up in the air. The Blue Jays (9-1) tied Muhlenberg for first place in the conference, but the Mules received the automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs by tiebreaker due to their 14-6 victory over Hopkins on Oct. 25. Both teams finished with a 5-1 conference record.
The Blue Jays still have a shot at an at-large bid to the playoffs, but it appears to be an outside one. Centennial Conference executive director Steve Ulrich and Hopkins officials confirmed yesterday that the school has asked to host an ECAC South Region championship game next Saturday if the Blue Jays don't make the NCAAs.
The school should receive word later today on whether it has been selected for the NCAA tournament or will have a shot at hosting the ECAC game.
Johns Hopkins coach Jim Margraff knew his players would have a lot on their minds this week, so he gave his team a very simple message when practice began.
"We said it straight up when we met last Sunday that all the things you want can't happen unless you win," Margraff said. "The first thing we wanted to do was win the conference championship. The NCAA tournament is out of our control."
The Blue Jays shared the conference title with Muhlenberg and McDaniel (5-5, 4-2) last year, and the Green Terror would have won it and earned the automatic bid this season by virtue of its victory over Muhlenberg if it won yesterday.
But McDaniel looked rattled from the start. Hopkins' defense pressured quarterback Brad Baer throughout, and the freshman lost two fumbles and threw an interception that put the Blue Jays in great field position three times.
His first lost fumble gave Johns Hopkins the ball at the 20-yard line, and Nate Readal scored on a 1-yard run four plays later for a 7-0 lead with 9:01 left in the first quarter. The second fumble Baer lost - he committed four overall - came late in the second quarter on a bad snap and gave the Blue Jays the ball at the 19. Hopkins then got a 35-yard field goal from Chris Smolyn with 2:29 left for a 10-3 lead.
Matt Campbell's 20-yard interception return two plays later landed the Blue Jays at the 27 and set up quarterback George Merrell's 1-yard touchdown run with 32.8 seconds left in the half. That gave Hopkins a 17-3 lead and command of the game.
"We made the plays we had to make," said Merrell, who finished 18-for-28 for 236 yards. "We were mixing it up on offense, and it worked out well." The Blue Jays racked up 331 yards total offense despite having trouble in the red zone. They got inside the McDaniel 20-yard line seven times but came away with only 17 points.
Adam Cook rushed for a game-high 64 yards and added four catches for 18 yards as Merrell repeatedly used the running back in key situations. Cook finished the regular season with 984 yards rushing.
Hopkins' defense shut down McDaniel, limiting the Green Terror to 44 yards passing and 197 yards overall. McDaniel converted just one of 12 third-down chances, and the Blue Jays held an eight-minute edge in time of possession.
"We made some mistakes right off the bat," McDaniel coach Tim Keating said. "I thought that we came out too tight, and we tried to relax them."
Johns Hopkins 7 10 0 0 - 17
McDaniel 0 3 0 0 - 3
First quarter JH-Readal 1 run (Smolyn kick), 9:01 Second quarter M-Getchell 21 FG, 12:49 JH-Smolyn 35 FG, 2:29 JH-Merrell 1 run (Smolyn kick), :32
First downs 18 9
Rushes-yards 44-95 38-153
Passing 236 44
Comp-Att-Int 18-28-0 6-17-1
Return yards 71 118
Punts-Avg. 4-32.5 6-39.2
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 4-2
Penalties-Yards 4-40 10-80
Time of possession 34:00 26:00
Rushing-Johns Hopkins, Cook 17-64, Lyons 4-11, Readal 3-8, Merrell 15-8, Stopper 1-3, Wolcott 1-2, Triplin 2-1, team 1-(-2). McDaniel, Pope 9-56, Baer 15-52, Maybank 4-24, Posin 3-21, Talley 6-6, team 1-(-6). Passing-Johns Hopkins, Merrell 18-28-0-236. McDaniel, Baer 6-13-1-44, Talley 0-4-0-0. Receiving-Johns Hopkins, Wolcott 5-102, Lehman 4-76, Cook 4-18, Triplin 2-11, Readal 1-21, Moriarty 1-7, Nesbitt 1-1. McDaniel, Pope 2-9, Flaherty 2-6, Myers 1-17, Venuto 1-12.