Nov. 17, 2008
BALTIMORE, MD -- The Johns Hopkins football team will host Catholic University on Saturday, November 22 in the ECAC Southeast Bowl Game it was announced today by representatives of the ECAC. The Blue Jays earned their way into the ECAC field with an 8-2 record and a second-place finish in the Centennial Conference.. Catholic posted an 8-2 record during the regular season and a 4-2 mark in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. The Cardinals finished in a four-way tie for the ODAC title, but lost out on a tie-breaker for the league's automatic bid to the NCAAs.
Kickoff for Saturday's game at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field will be at noon and there will not be an admission fee to attend. The Johns Hopkins-Catholic game is one of seven ECAC Bowls taking place on Saturday.
The Blue Jays are making their fourth appearance in an ECAC Bowl since 2002 and their fifth overall post-season appearance in the last seven years. Hopkins defeated Frostburg State, 24-21, in the ECAC Southwest Championship Game in 2002 and followed that with a 41-13 victory over King's (PA) in the ECAC South Atlantic Championship Game in 2003. The Blue Jays then beat Waynesburg, 26-23, in the 2004 ECAC Southeast title game and followed that with an appearance in the NCAA Playoffs in 2005. The game against Frostburg was the first playoff game in the history of the program.
Despite a youth-filled roster, Johns Hopkins has rallied from a 4-6 record a year ago to post the program's largest one-season turnaround since 1990, when JHU posted a 5-4-1 record in current head coach Jim Margraff's first season. The Blue Jays had finished 1-9 in 1989. Johns Hopkins opened the 2008 season with three straight wins before back-to-back losses dropped the team to 3-2. A 36-34 win over Dickinson sparked a five-game winning streak (the team's longest since 2005) that lifted the Blue Jays to 8-2. The Blue Jays have now won eight or more games five times in the last seven years; prior to 2002 Johns Hopkins had never won more than seven games in a season.
Johns Hopkins has relied on a balanced offense and an opportunistic defense this season. Junior running back Andrew Kase has rushed for a school-record 1,447 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Hewitt Tomlin has thrown for a Johns Hopkins and Centennial Conference freshman-record 1,847 yards and nine touchdowns. Sophomore Tucker Michels (60-661-4) and freshman Sam Wernick (34-617-4) provide a solid one-two punch at wide receiver and the Blue Jays are averaging 27.0 points and 383.3 yards per game.
Senior Chris Baldwin leads the Blue Jay defense as he counts teams highs of 81 tackles, four interceptions and seven pass breakups to his credit. Junior Colin Wixted paces an active group of linebackers with 65 tackles and five pass breakups, while fellow linebacker A.J. Albert counts team-highs of 7.5 tackles for losses and 4.0 sacks among his 49 tackles. Junior Glenn Rocca anchors the defensive line as he has 43 tackles, 4.0 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks on the year.
Catholic will bring one of the top offensive units and one of the best offensive players in the nation to Homewood Field. The Cardinals are averaging 393.3 yards and 32.8 points per game and have scored 26 or more points in each of their last six games.
Senior Keith Ricca has an NFL-caliber arm and has thrown for 2,962 yards with 33 touchdowns against just nine interceptions on 342 attempts. Classmate Andrew Buis counts a team-high 52 receptions to his credit, while he (8), Miles Sabrick (8) and Ryan McManus (10) all have at least eight touchdown receptions on the year. Catholic has turned the ball over just 11 times in 10 games.
While the high-octane offense gets most of the attention, the Catholic defense has been solid and opportunistic. The Cardinals have forced 26 turnovers and have 28 sacks on the year. The opposition is averaging just 22.3 points per game despite averaging nearly 36 minutes of possession time.
This will be the eighth meeting between Johns Hopkins and Catholic with the series tied 3-3-1. The teams have not met since Catholic pulled out a 22-20 victory against the Blue Jays on September 8, 1990. That was Margraff's first game as the head coach at Johns Hopkins.
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