JCU players relive the stunning victory
Players relive victory that broke Purple Raiders’ 112-game regular-season winning streak
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.
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.
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.