The Johns Hopkins football team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The No. 8 Blue Jays could not protect a one-point lead in the final minute of regulation on Saturday, as No. 14 Wesley marched 82 yards on five plays and in 31 seconds to score a touchdown and escape from Homewood Field in Baltimore with a 29-24 victory in a first-round game of the NCAA Division III tournament.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Callahan connected with junior wide receiver Steve Koudossou on a 33-yard deep post with 12.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter to rally from a 24-23 deficit that left a partisan crowd of 1,460 stunned and sent the Wolverines (9-2) to a second-round date with Ithaca (9-2).
"It was two great teams going at it back and forth," said Johns Hopkins coach Jim Margraff, whose team suffered its first loss since Nov. 24, 2012, when Mount Union enjoyed a 55-13 rout. "I think in the end, they made one more great play than we did."
Callahan completed 27-of-43 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those scores went to Koudossou, who finished with 11 catches for 132 yards.
Wesley began its game-winning drive from its own 18-yard line, but used a 36-yard pass from Callahan to Koudossou and another 10-yarder from the same duo to move to Johns Hopkins' 33. After two incompletions, Callahan spotted Koudossou splitting a cornerback and safety on the winning play.
"We had a deep post called and an in route underneath by the tight end," Callahan recalled. "I saw that the safety took a couple steps up, and as soon as I saw that, I let it go to Steve, and he made a great catch."
Added Koudossou: "[A]ll I had to do was win the matchup and that's what I'm known to do. [Offensive coordinator Chip] Knapp told me I had to make a play, so I did."
Prior to that series, the Blue Jays had given up just one touchdown even though the Wolverines started four series in Hopkins territory, sacked Callahan three times, and stopped Wesley twice on fourth down.
But when the Blue Jays needed to make just one more stop, the defense faltered.
"You've got to treat every play the same way," said junior defensive end Michael Rocca, who made five tackles, sacked Callahan once, and knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage. "We knew we had to come out and we knew their offense was a great offense and was going to click at some point. … We were looking for that one more stop, and they made a couple of great plays."
Entering the game ranked 16th in the country in rushing at 268.2 yards per game, Hopkins managed 188 yards on the ground. Freshman Stuart Walters paced the offense with 21 carries for 97 yards and one touchdown, but sophomore Brandon Cherry was limited to 24 yards on eight attempts.
"I just felt like they were putting a lot of people in the box," said Cherry, a Parkville native and Boys' Latin graduate, who had averaged 129.4 yards and scored five touchdowns in his previous five starts. "They have a defense with tremendous speed. So they were flying to the ball. The type of offense that we have, we just had to be patient for the holes to open. The holes were there. I just didn't have the best game today."
Wolverines coach Mike Drass was surprised his defense contained Cherry as well as it did.
"I didn't think we really took him out until looking at the stats now," Drass said. "He didn't have as many yards as normal, but we didn't do anything concerted effort-wise to keep him out. We were really nervous about the screen game, we were really nervous as far as them crossing."
Senior Blue Jays quarterback Robbie Matey connected on 22-of-33 throws for 194 yards, and his lone touchdown was a 10-yard strike to senior wide receiver Dan Wodicka that gave Hopkins the 24-23 edge with 49.7 seconds left. At that point, Matey thought the team was onto the next round for the second consecutive year.
"Our defense was playing well, and especially in the second half, they had played extremely well the whole game," he said. "The only time they really scored was when we set them up in a bad situation. I thought our defense could take care of it, but Wesley has an extremely good offense and they made plays when it mattered."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun