A nightmarish beginning to the third quarter dashed the opening-game hopes of the Yellowjackets as the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays notched a decisive 27-9 victory over UR before a 3,000- strong crowd at Edwin Fauver Stadium Saturday afternoon.
A reeling UR sideline struggled to keep up as the Blue Jays scored twice in under two minutes to establish a 13-3 lead that carried the visiting team to an easy victory. Hopkins quarterback George Merrell connected with receiver Brian Wolcott for on a 35-yard score two 2:21 into the second half to put the Bluejays ahead of UR 7-3. Leaving little time to recover, Hopkins blocked the Yellowjackets’ punt on the ensuing series and returned the ball 21 yards for another score. Only one minute and fifty seconds had elapsed since the start of the third quarter but sufficient damage had been done as UR now trailed Hopkins 13-3.
“Defensively we were on cue for most of the game except for three breakdowns,” said UR head coach Mark Kreydt. “We had three defensive lapses for three scores. The blocked punt was a breakdown and that certainly affected the course of the game.”
Sophomore defensive back Michael Dermody scored UR’s only touchdown of the game with a on fumble return early in the fourth quarter that cut the Blue Jays’ lead to 20-9. Dermody, a Spencerport, N.Y. native, also contributed with eleven tackles, two forced fumbles – including one returned for a touchdown – and two broken passes.
The Yellowjackets won the opening toss, contained Hopkins and kept the board scoreless as each team struggled for dominance during the first quarter.
UR was able to sting first however, as sophomore quarterback Pat Manuel led the offense and strung together a 19-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a 22-yard field goal by senior Chris Johnston.
Manuel, last year’s Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association Rookie of the Year, is poised to build on an already decorated career at UR in only his second year at the collegiate level, having already shattered UR records for most completions (143), most net yards passing (1,979), and most net yards (2,146). Manuel completed 17-39 attempted passes versus Hopkins and threw for a total of 148 yards. He also ran for 52 yards.
The Blue Jays’ attempts at scoring in the first half were frustrated by a mature UR defense, anchored by senior lineman Sam Snowden, senior linebacker Craig Pipal and senior defensive back Kassim Howell.
Pipal recovered two Blue Jay fumbles and broke up three passes. In all, the UR defense forced four fumbles and recorded four tackles for a loss.
Despite a strong effort by the Yellowjacket defense to stymie a Blue Jays squad that won nine games last year, Kreydt was not satisfied with his team’s performance in the first half.
“Looking at the clock, we controlled the ball for over 20 minutes of the first 30 minutes and only had three points to show for it. We had a lot of miscues and missed opportunities in the first half that I feel carried over for whole day offensively.”
A momentary loss of poise was all it took, however, for the tide to turn tremendously against UR as a defensive misread and a bungled punt in the opening moments of the third quarter negated UR’s first half efforts.
Hopkins padded their lead to 20-3 early in the fourth quarter as a touchdown pass from Merrell to Wolcott again frustrated the Yellowjackets.
Dermody’s fumble recovery for a touchdown added six points for the home team but with only ten minutes left in the game and a Hopkins offense controlling the clock it was too little, too late as the Yellowjackets were forced to start out their 2003 season with a loss at home.
“Our morale is great,” said Kreydt challenging the idea that the loss might demoralize the team.
“We are a bigger and stronger team than we were a year ago, able to compete with anybody we might play. I saw some things on defense I haven’t seen for a long time and both defensively and offensively we have a great group of senior leaders. Our challenge is to live up to our potential and execute the plays we need to in order to win against good football teams.”
Kreydt will have an opportunity next week as the Yellowjackets take on crosstown rival St. John Fisher in what has traditionally been one of the most heated games of the season.
The Cardinals won 6 games last year and have 20 out of 22 starters returning.
“I’m excited for the next nine games,” said Kreydt of next week’s challenge and the remainder of the 2003 season.
Schloss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.