Engineers’ run ends in quarters
RPI can’t keep pace with Johns Hopkins’ top-ranked offense led by versatile QB
A balanced offense is what most football teams hope to achieve. When much of that Saturday came from one player, it was lights out for RPI’S historic 2018 season.
Junior quarterback Dave Tammaro, operator of the nation’s most productive offense, passed for 284 yards. But it was his 81 timely rushing yards that helped boost Johns Hopkins past the Engineers 37-14 in the Division III NCAA quarterfinals at Homewood Field.
“Today the better team won,” RPI coach Ralph Isernia said, “and the better team played better.”
Johns Hopkins, which will play top-ranked Mount Union (Ohio) in next week’s semifinals, was averaging a Division Iii-best 568 yards per game. The Blue Jays gained 521 yards — 237 rushing and 284 passing.
Had it not been for Tammaro, there might have been a different outcome for the Engineers (10-2), who fell a victory short of matching the playoff run of the 2003 team, the only RPI squad to advance as far in the NCAAS.
On the touchdown drive that put the Blue Jays (12-1) ahead to stay in the second quarter, Tammaro converted a third-and-10 and a fourth-and 2 by running.
“It looked like on film they played a lot of soft zone,” Tammaro said. “It looked like the box is wide open from my perspective. So if my initial reads weren’t there, I thought I could get something done on the ground with my feet.”
Tammaro ran for key first downs on both touchdown drives in the third
quarter, when Johns Hopkins extended its 17-7 halftime lead to 31-14. Several were designed runs, when Tammaro faked to 215-pound running back Stuart Walters (13 carries, 102 yards) and kept the ball himself.
“He was good,” RPI linebacker Jack Hoggard said of Tammaro. “They schemed it up pretty well. They’d get us moving to the outside, and they’d have a designed draw up the middle. He was slipperier than we saw on film.”
Beyond that, RPI wasn’t able to establish a running game on offense, gaining just 34 yards in 22 attempts, and didn’t force a turnover. The Engineers produced five turnovers and blocked a punt in last week’s 21-13 upset victory over Brockport.
“A part of our formula of success was being able to run the football, get first downs,” Isernia said. “When we fell behind, you needed to get more chunk plays, you need to throw the football, you needed some catch-and-runs.”
Senior Keaton Ackermann scored both RPI touchdowns, on a 16-yard reception from George Marinopoulos in the first quarter and on a 23-yard reverse in the third. Marinopoulos completed 24 of 44 passes for 296 yards. Ackermann had seven receptions for 147 yards.
“Their quarterback played extremely well at times,” Hopkins coach Jim Margraff said. “I only saw three games on him, but he rises in big moments. He made some great throws and made some nice plays.”
Coming out of halftime, RPI’S defense appeared to have a three-and-out on the first possession, but Johns Hopkins gambled on fourth-and-1 from its 31. Hogan Irwin ran exactly one yard, though Isernia was irate that the officials didn’t bring out the chains to measure for the first down.
“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t measure,” Isernia said. “At least you get the call right. The officials have a job to do, and they do their job well. I just thought, why not measure at that point?”
Johns Hopkins also caught a break on its second offensive play of the game. Tammaro fumbled on a run attempt, and RPI appeared to recover. After a halfminute of sorting through the rubble, the officials allowed the Blue Jays to keep the ball.
“I had it at the bottom of the pile,” Hoggard said, “then they pulled everyone off and said he was down, so I let go. I was excited about that one. I thought we had it.”
In the end, the hosts’ offense and defense stepped up. Johns Hopkins controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides and never trailed.
“We never feel that we’re going to lose a game,” said offensive tackle Aaron Castillo, one of 24 seniors who won’t be back for RPI. “Everyone buys into the program. We have a winning program that plays every play.”
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RPI’S George Marinopoulos is chased by Johns Hopkins’ Anthony Davidson Saturday in Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins quarterback david tammaro is chased by rpi defensive lineman Antonio rogliano during a division iii NCAA quarterfinal on Saturday at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood field in Baltimore.