JCU play­ers relive the stun­ning vic­tory

Play­ers relive vic­tory that broke Pur­ple Raiders’ 112-game reg­u­lar-sea­son win­ning streak

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Front Page - By Mark Podol­ski mpodol­ski@news-her­ald.com @mpodo on Twit­ter

When the John Car­roll foot­ball team ar­rived in Alliance on Nov. 12, 2016, there weren’t many out­side of the Blue Streaks pro­gram who felt an up­set was in the mak­ing.

Mount Union en­tered the game with a 112-game reg­u­larsea­son win­ning streak.

The game kicked off at 1:30 p.m. About three hours later, the col­lege foot­ball world had been turned up­side down.

JCU stunned Mount in the fi­nal sec­onds when quar­ter­back An­thony Moeglin threw a 24yard touch­down pass to Wil­liam Woods with 39 sec­onds left in the game.

In that one mo­ment, a re­gional foot­ball game turned into

a na­tional event. ESPN showed the high­light the rest of the day. For­mer Coach Tom Arth made an ap­pear­ance the next day on ESPN’s “Sport­sCen­ter.”

The Blue Streaks be­came the na­tion’s dar­lings, but it didn’t stop there. JCU won three straight NCAA Divi­sion III play­off games, and ad­vanced to the na­tional semi­fi­nal round be­fore it lost to Wis­con­sin-Oshkosh, 10-3.

This sea­son, the Blue Streaks are led by a new coach, Rick Finotti. Arth is now the coach at FCS Chat­tanooga.

They get a chance at re­demp­tion in their first game of 2017, as Oshkosh trav­els to Don Shula Sta­dium on Sept. 2.

2016 will go down as one of the best foot­ball sea­sons in school his­tory, but will be best re­mem­bered for a mem­o­rable Novem­ber af­ter­noon in Alliance.

The im­pos­si­ble be­came a re­al­ity, and the JCU play­ers made believ­ers out of any and all doubters. This is their story. (JCU play­ers quoted are in­tro­duced with their class and po­si­tion dur­ing the 2016 sea­son).

The week’s build-up

JCU en­tered the con­test 8-1 and 8-0 in the Ohio Ath­letic Con­fer­ence. Its lone loss was in the non­con­fer­ence to Oshkosh, 33-14, to start the sea­son. Mount was 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in the na­tion. The Pur­ple Raiders were not tested to that point. They had not lost to the Blue Streaks since 1989, but JCU had come close to beat­ing Mount in 2013 and twice in 2014. WIL­LIAM WOODS (JU­NIOR WIDE RE­CEIVER) » For some rea­son, I didn’t have good prac­tices the first two days of the week, and Coach Arth pulled me into his of­fice and told me I needed to step it up. He was like, ‘This could be the week we need you, the week we call your num­ber.’ AN­THONY MOEGLIN (FRESH­MAN QUAR­TER­BACK, GRAD­U­ATE OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, WHICH IS A SHORT DIS­TANCE FROM MOUNT UNION) » The whole bus trip down was fun for me. I hadn’t played in Stark County in two years, and Stark County has al­ways been good to me. We ac­tu­ally drove past my high school. It was a unique deal, hav­ing so many fam­ily and friends there. I was ex­cited to come home and play.

MA­SON MCKENRICK (JU­NIOR LINE­BACKER, MEN­TOR GRAD) » We pulled into that sta­dium that day and I’ll never forget this. There was a dorm with a ban­ner hanging that read, ‘What’s worse, blow­ing a 3-1 se­ries lead or not beat­ing Mount Union for 26 straight years?’ We all laughed be­cause as we left the sta- dium, the ban­ner was gone. JOVON DAW­SON (SE­NIOR COR­NER­BACK, BENE­DIC­TINE GRAD) » We knew we had the tal­ent to beat those guys. RAY BROWN (SOPHO­MORE DE­FEN­SIVE END) » We saw so many signs driv­ing in ... John Car­roll who? Blue Streaks what? Then, Mount de­cided to warm up on our side of the field. I took that as a big dis­re­spect, like they weren’t tak­ing us se­ri­ously.

JCU starts fast

In three close losses to Mount in 2013 and 2014, the Blue Streaks had to rally from deficits each time. This time, they played with a 13-0 lead af­ter the first quar­ter on an 80-yard run by Ro Gol­phin and a short TD catch by Mar­shall How­ell. The de­fense held Mount to 9 firstquar­ter yards. Cor­ner­back Scott Eil­er­man set up JCU’s sec­ond TD with an in­ter­cep­tion in Pur­ple Raiders’ ter­ri­tory. RO GOL­PHIN (JU­NIOR RUN­NING BACK, GIL­MOUR GRAD) » I couldn’t be­lieve it. Against a Mount Union de­fense? You don’t ex­pect to take it 80 yards against those guys. That was a great sign for us. MOEGLIN » I thought we’d get 10 yards on the play. Then it was like, uh oh, there he goes. 80 yards. That was huge. SCOTT EIL­ER­MAN (SE­NIOR COR­NER­BACK, KIRT­LAND GRAD) » (Kirt­land coach Tiger LaVerde) sent me a text that week, say­ing good luck, stuff like that. The next week I saw him, and he said he had a dream I would get an in­ter­cep­tion. I dropped a few (pos­si­ble in­ter­cep­tions) dur­ing the sea­son but I got that one. If I had to drop 20 picks dur­ing the sea­son to get that one, I’d do it. MOEGLIN » That was the scary part, we were up 130, and we should have been up a whole lot more. We made some mis­takes, and you just know you’re not go­ing to keep a great team like Mount down.

Here comes Mount

The Pur­ple Raiders re­cov­ered from the tough first quar­ter and pulled within six when quar­ter­back Dom Davis scored on a 25-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play. It capped a six-play, 58yard drive. Prior to that, the Mount of­fense had 26 yards. REESE ARM­STRONG (SE­NIOR SAFETY, MEN­TOR GRAD) » On that touch­down, I’m sure I was think­ing, ‘Oh crap’ be­cause mo­men­tum is such a crazy thing, es­pe­cially against a team like Mount. AN­THONY CHRISTO­PHER (JU­NIOR LINE­BACKER, LAKE CATHOLIC GRAD) » It’s tough (play­ing at Mount). Their fans are ruth­less. You want to keep the fans out of it. EIL­ER­MAN » A team like Mount, they al­ways have some­thing up their sleeve. That was a dag­ger just be­fore half. A mo­men­tum killer.

The rally (and scoop and score)

The Pur­ple Raiders outscored JCU in the third quar­ter, 14-0, and took a 21-13 lead into the fourth quar­ter. Moeglin and the of­fense couldn’t get much go­ing, but then they found a spark when James took a pass and went 40 yards to pay dirt to make it 21-19 with 11 min­utes re­main­ing. MOEGLIN » Nico just got re­ally hot and be­came our go-to guy. NICO JAMES (SE­NIOR WIDE RE­CEIVER) » I was the third op­tion on that (TD), and I did not re­al­ize he would throw me that ball. He put it on the money.

That TD set up the first of two sig­na­ture plays of the game. On a thir­dand-7 play from the JCU 34 with a lit­tle more than 5 min­utes re­main­ing, Arm­strong broke free off the edge, tack­led Davis, stripped the ball, which Dy­lan Hall picked up and raced 45 yards for a TD. With 5:13 left in the game, it was JCU 25, Mount 21. ARM­STRONG » All I re­mem­ber was knock­ing the ball out and hold­ing the quar­ter­back down, hop­ing a team­mate would pick it up. When I fi­nally got up, I saw Dy­lan run­ning it in. That was about as ex­cited as I’ve ever been in 14 years of foot­ball. Big­gest mo­ment of my (foot­ball) life. MCKENRICK » One of the cra­zi­est plays I’ve ever been a part of. CHRISTO­PHER » I blitzed up the mid­dle on that play, and I was right there. If Dy­lan didn’t get it, I would have been right there. (De­fen­sive line­man Adam Thomp­son) was right in front of me (dur­ing Hall’s run). He made a great block on the run­ning back. DY­LAN HALL (SE­NIOR DE­FEN­SIVE LINE­MAN) » I saw the ball ly­ing on the ground, and I thought, ‘I don’t have to jump on this.’ But I was so scared I was go­ing to pick it up and drop it. Hon­estly, I was just try­ing to touch the goal post. Ray (Brown) comes up to me and says, ‘But you’re still not faster than me.’ In the mid­dle of that, I was like, ‘OK man.’ BROWN » I’m def­i­nitely faster than Dy­lan. He would never beat me in a race. I was hop­ing he made it be­cause he would have never let him live that one down. HALL » I prob­a­bly looked back like seven times be­cause I was ner­vous to get caught. I wear a size 16 shoe, and I didn’t want to trip on my own two feet. BROWN » For some rea­son, I just re­mem­ber the fa­cial ex­pres­sions of the Mount fans as Dy­lan was run­ning it in. They were just shocked.

Mount magic strikes

The Pur­ple Raiders, as they’ve done through­out their dy­nasty (started in 1993 with their first na­tional ti­tle), re­sponded. Davis found Brae­den Friss for 37-yard TD re­cep­tion with 1:34 re­main­ing to put Mount back in front, 28-25. The JCU de­fense, the sta­ple of the team and ranked No. 3 in the na­tion in Divi­sion III, had to turn the game over to the of­fense. EIL­ER­MAN » Af­ter watch­ing the plays made by Reese and Dy­lan, (that TD) was dev­as­tat­ing. DAW­SON » At that point, I’m a fan, and we’re hop­ing to God the of­fense would get it done. There was noth­ing (the de­fense) could do.

‘The throw and catch’

The Blue Streaks be­gan the next drive at their own 34. MOEGLIN » I thought this is my chance to go out and make foot­ball his­tory. I re­mem­ber walk­ing out and be­ing com­pletely calm. MAR­SHALL HOW­ELL (SE­NIOR WIDE RE­CEIVER, BENE­DIC­TINE GRAD) » The only player in the hud­dle talk­ing was Moeglin. He came in there con­fi­dent. Ev­ery­body be­lieved in him. He had total con­trol of the of­fense. BROWN » I told Moegs, ‘You have to take con­trol, this is your team. He said, ‘I got you.’

Com­ple­tions to James for 31 and 15 yards ad­vanced the ball to the Mount 22. Two plays later, Moeglin took a sack, and it was third-and-12 from the Mount 24 with fewer than 40 sec­onds re­main­ing. What came next will go down as one of the great­est plays in JCU foot­ball his­tory as Moeglin con­nected with the sel­do­mused Woods (14 catches com­ing into the game) for a 24-yard touch­down. The play was de­signed with Woods, Ed­die Wil­liamson, and How­ell (or trips) to the right, and James wide to the left. Moeglin’s first op­tion was to look for James, who was wide open un­der­neath. MOEGLIN » We called a great play, a money play, but I threw it to com­pletely the wrong per­son. I got re­ally greedy, but I loved what I saw and I picked a guy to key on. Be­ing the dumb fresh­man, I liked what I saw. WOODS » The thing about that play is that ev­ery­thing about it was wrong ex­cept the re­sult. The pro­tec­tion was wrong. We ran the wrong route. Moegs wasn’t even sup­posed to look my way. But he couldn’t have put the ball in a bet­ter place. CHRISTO­PHER » Moegs bet on him­self right there, and look what hap­pened. He got him­self on “Sport­sCen­ter.” Lucky guy. MOEGLIN » Those are the mo­ments you see in a movie but you never get to live it. We got to live it.

The af­ter­math

Af­ter the TD, Mount couldn’t an­swer as the JCU de­fense held. A knee-down play by Moeglin se­cured the win, and hys­te­ria and wild cel­e­bra­tion en­sued. JCU hugs and tears were ev­ery­where. It trick­led to the locker room, the bus ride home and to the cel­e­bra­tion at the JCU cam­pus, where stu­dents wel­comed home the team. The next morn­ing, Arth was on ESPN’s “Sport­sCen­ter” be­ing in­ter­viewed about the his­toric up­set. CHRISTO­PHER » For me, (see­ing Moeglin take a knee in) vic­tory for­ma­tion was the peak. Then see­ing the pur­ple leave the stands. For once. HOW­ELL » Be­ing in vic­tory for­ma­tion, that was re­ally emo­tional for me. EIL­ER­MAN » It was big­ger than D-III foot­ball and (Ohio Ath­letic Con­fer­ence) foot­ball, when you see Coach Arth on ESPN. Wow, it was big­ger than I thought it was. MOEGLIN » Some of the best few hours of my life. Pure joy. SAM KUKURA (SOPHO­MORE RUN­NING BACK, KIRT­LAND GRAD) » I was speech­less. The looks on ev­ery­one’s faces was spe­cial. Tears, smiles, hugs. WOODS » I don’t have a smart phone, and ev­ery­one was like, “(The TD) was all over ESPN.” I didn’t even know, and I didn’t see it un­til about a week later. MCKENRICK » You could hear on the bus ev­ery few min­utes a phone go­ing off. Ev­ery­one’s phones were blow­ing up. BROWN » (Moeglin) tak­ing the knee. That was the best. At that point, we’re run­ning on the field, and that was the mo­ment we’ll never forget. It will stick with us for­ever.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HOWARD PRIMER/PHOTO COUR­TESY CAN­TON REPOS­I­TORY

John Car­roll Univer­sity quar­ter­back An­thony Moeglin cel­e­brates throw­ing the win­ning touch­down in the Blue Streaks’ 31-28 up­set of Mount Union in 2016. Also pic­tured is The News-Her­ald sports front page from Nov. 13 print edi­tions.

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