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Active defensive front has contributed to Johns Hopkins' strength vs. the pass

The No. 14 Johns Hopkins football team is tied for fourth in Division III in sacks with 23, and a good portion of the credit goes to the defensive front four of junior defensive ends Michael Longo and Michael Connery, senior defensive tackle Joe DiTrolio and junior defensive tackle Michael Rocca.

That group has accounted for 9½ sacks and been the foundation of the defense, according to coach Jim Margraff.

"I think our defense is playing at a very high level right now," he said Wednesday. "Our two defensive ends, Mike Longo and Matthew Connery, both put pressure on quarterbacks from the edge, and our inside guys are getting a good push off.

"So that is turning into more sacks than we've gotten in the past. We've been a pretty good pressure team, but right now, we're getting those sacks without bringing a lot of blitz. They're just doing a great job."

The pressure caused by the front four means that the Blue Jays (5-0 overall and 4-0 in the league) don't have to send additional players to generate a pass rush. Instead, those players can drop back into coverage and make it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to find open targets downfield.

"It lets you play zone," Margraff said of not dialing up too many blitzes. "We'll still get pressure with a three-man rush sometimes, but it also gives you a chance to clamp or double-team maybe their best receiver. So it gives us a lot of different options. It's something that is incredibly important."

Johns Hopkins' lowest single-game sack total of the season was two in a 52-14 rout of Moravian on Sept. 21. That number could be tested Friday night when Dickinson (2-3, 2-2) visits Homewood Field in Baltimore. The Red Devils have surrendered just eight sacks thus far, which is the third-lowest total in the Centennial Conference.

"They get rid of the ball very quickly," Margraff said. "They do a lot of things offensively, but they like the zone-read stuff. A lot of their throws are like us – quick screens and bubbles. They're very efficient in the pass game. They try to get rid of the ball quickly, and I think they'll try to do that against us."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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