The lack of attention paid to running back Danny Wolf and the defense for the Johns Hopkins football team might be fleeting.
The defense ran its streak of preventing a touchdown to 14 consecutive quarters and 56 straight possessions. And the unit got some help on the other end of the field in the form of a program-record five touchdown runs from Wolf to power the Blue Jays to a 66-10 demolition of Centennial Conference foe Franklin & Marshall on Saturday afternoon before an announced 1,100 at Homewood Field.
Johns Hopkins — which is ranked Nos. 14 and 15 in the most recent American Football Coaches Association and D3football.com polls, respectively — improved to 5-0 overall (and 4-0 in the conference) for its best start since the 2016 squad went 10-0 before losing to Mount Union in the second round of the Division III playoffs.
The Blue Jays’ recipe Saturday was equal amounts of defense and Wolf. The defense surrendered only 108 yards of total offense and six first downs to the Diplomats (1-4 overall and 1-3 in the league). In a second half in which Johns Hopkins posted a 43-0 shutout, Franklin & Marshall went three-and-out five times and did not advance beyond its own 48-yard line.
“It’s something we think about, but we don’t necessarily hang our hats on it,” senior defensive tackle Joe Tischler said of unit’s touchdown drought. “We’re just trying to get better every week. At the end of the day, we want to keep guys out of the end zone and not let them score, but we’re not thinking about [the streak]. We just want to play sound defense, and I think we’ve been doing a good job of that.”
Coach Greg Chimera said the defense deserves a greater slice of the spotlight.
“They don’t fly under the radar for me,” he said. “It’s 56 straight possessions without giving up a touchdown, and that’s a great defense. It’s all the units, it’s all 11 guys, and it’s everybody. It’s how they work throughout the week. That’s the heartbeat of our team.”
Entering the game tied for ninth in the country in total takeaways with 11, the Blue Jays added to that sum with interceptions by junior middle linebacker Matt Dubois and graduate student cornerback Finn Zechman in the first and second quarters, respectively, and a forced fumble by senior linebacker Aaron Shapiro and a fumble recovery by junior defensive back Michael Linguadoca in the fourth quarter. And the offense took advantage by converting those opportunities into 20 points.
“Turnovers are very important, especially when you start the game with one like Dubois did,” Tischler said. “That set up the offense to score, and then it puts them behind the 8-ball for the rest of the game.”
While the defense walled off Franklin & Marshall, Johns Hopkins found its offensive catalyst in Wolf. With rushing touchdowns of 52, two (twice) and one (twice), he became the first player in program history to score five times in a single game. And he surpassed his previous career high of 81 yards against Stevenson in 2019 with 129 yards on 21 carries.
“It definitely brings some confidence,” said Wolf, who admitted he asked Chimera to put him back in the game to set the school record with 2:44 left in the third quarter. “I definitely don’t need attention from media or other teams because I know that the three receivers we’ve got are all beasts. But showing that we can come out here and pound the rock and show some dominance on the ground is important for our team’s confidence.”
Chimera said Wolf earned the opportunity to establish a new standard.
“Danny’s been someone who has been flying under the radar with our passing attack,” he said. “He works that hard and is that good every single day for us. So I’m not surprised by it. It’s also cool for him to break the record. There are a lot of records that are tough to beat. So that’s a good one.”
The one bright spot for the Diplomats occurred on special teams when freshman linebacker Jacob Hille blocked senior punter Kyle Battles’ punt while standing in the Blue Jays’ end zone. Sophomore linebacker Ryan McArthur pounced on the loose ball with 81 seconds left in the second quarter to give Franklin & Marshall its only touchdown of the game.
While pointing out that his offense started freshmen at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end positions, coach John Troxell said Johns Hopkins has set the bar in the Centennial Conference.
“Hopkins does what Hopkins does,” he said. “They come in, they score, they hold you to a three-and-out, they score again, and it deflates you. And then you add the takeaways. When things don’t go well, it’s not about the adversity, but it’s about how you respond. I’m not sure we responded great. That’s a nationally ranked team that can compete at the end of the season for what I think will be a national championship.”
Oct. 15, 7 p.m.