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Defense has been consistently good and under the radar for Johns Hopkins football

Defense has been consistently good and under the radar for Johns Hopkins football
Johns Hopkins' Arman Mizani (42), center, sacks Muhlenberg quarterback Nick Palladino, left, in the fourth quarter on Sept. 26, 2015 at Homewood Field. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

With an offense ranked 12th in Division III in scoring (46.7 points per game) and 19th in yards per game (503.0), the Johns Hopkins defense tends to get overshadowed.

Maybe that shouldn't be the case any longer.

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The No. 10 Blue Jays (6-0 overall, 5-0 in the Centennial Conference) is tied for the 25th-fewest points allowed per contest in the country (14.5) and ranks 30th in third-down conversion rate allowed (29.3 percent). Within the league, the defense ranks second against the run (116.0 yards per game), interceptions (11) and opponents' first downs (105).

Those numbers could be lower if coach Jim Margraff did not pull starters in the second half of three contests this fall.

"They've been outstanding, and a lot of the points scored against us have not been against our first defense," Margraff said, referring to Hopkins opponents scoring 51 of their 87 points in the second half. "We have gotten a lot of guys time. I think almost every game though, the opposing offense has moved the ball early on us, and our defense has bent, but hasn't broken. Then they make some adjustments, get used to things and they've been dominating in a lot of the games. Other than the Muhlenberg game, which was a normal game against a very, very good team, our defense has been outstanding."

The practice of replacing starters in the second half has contributed to Johns Hopkins not having a single player ranked in the top 25 in the Centennial in total tackles or in the top 10 in sacks. Sophomore defensive end Keonte Henson (tied for third in fumbles forced and ranked 10th in tackles for loss), junior safety Jack Toner (sixth in interceptions and passes defensed), senior linebacker Keith Corliss (tied for sixth in interceptions), junior linebacker Dan Johnson (tied for sixth in interceptions) and sophomore cornerback Michael Munday (first in passes defensed) are the only players listed in the top 10 of key defensive categories.

Margraff said the coaches want to make sure that players are rested and experienced.

"We play a lot of guys," he said. "Even though we've got some terrific players, there's a rotation at nearly every position to keep people fresh and keep morale up and get people excited. There have been three games this year when those guys have not played in the second half. When you're playing well, your defense shouldn't have a whole ton of tackles. Your offense should be doing well, and your defense should be getting off the field."

Henson is the only Blue Jay to be named by the conference as a Defensive Player of the Week, but Margraff said the players on the defensive side of the ball aren't concerned with individual accolades.

"I think everyone likes attention, but you get attention by winning," he said. "I think we all receive that. They don't seem to be that type of group of guys. They just enjoy playing and having fun with each other."

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