NCAA Division-III Playoffs: John Carroll vs. Olivet
The No. 10 John Carroll Blue Streaks will welcome the Olivet Comets on Saturday for their first round matchup in the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. The Blue Streaks went 9-1, 9-0 in the conference to win the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC). Olivet also went 9-1, going 6-0 in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
How They Got Here:
John Carroll opened the season with a 33-14 loss to No. 5 UW-Oshkosh, 33-14. Then, they rolled in their last nine games of season to win the OAC. That included a huge 31-28 victory over defending champion Mount Union on the last day of the regular season, 31-28. The Blue Streaks dominated most opponents this season, but proved that they can win the close games as well, winning three games by less than seven points.
Like John Carroll, the Comets lost their first game of the season, then won their next nine to win the MIAA. It was an unbelievable turnaround for a team that was 0-10 just four seasons ago, and who had won just one game in four seasons from 2009-2012. Olivet won four games decided by a touchdown or less, but also put up some impressive offensive numbers, especially over the last six weeks of the season, when they scored at least 31 in each of those games.
John Carroll 36.9 PPG, 201.4 Rushing/Game, 208.2 Passing/Game, 409.6 Yards/Game
Olivet 32.6 PPG, 161.4 Rushing/Game, 219.6 Passing/Game, 381.0 Yards/Game
John Carroll 12.4 PPG, 72.8 Rushing/Game, 152.9 Passing/Game, 225.7 Yards/Game
Olivet 24.7 PPG, 64.8 Rushing/Game, 259.9 Passing/Game, 324.7 Yards/Game
Players to Watch
John Carroll has two impressive running backs that can carry the load. Ro Golphin was the team leader with 919-yards rushing and he added 10-scores. Sam Kukura scored 11-touchdowns and rushed for 674-yards. Anthony Moeglin had a solid season for the Blue Streaks, passing for 1,967-yards and 21-touchdowns. He completed an impressive 64.8 percent of his passes. Marshall Howell is his favorite receiver, making 43-catches for 379-yards and 7-TDs.
Mason McKendrick can do it all on defense. He led the team with 67-tackles, and added 5.5-sacks, a fumble recovery, and 8 pass defenses. Ray Brown was third on the team in tackles and led John Carroll with 9.5-sacks. Michael Hollins picked off five passes.
The Comets offense is led by QB Braden Black, who threw for 2,196-yards and 19-TDs. He completed 62.2 percent of his passes. No running put up particularly huge rushing numbers, but Damorria Lilly and Jerome Washington combined to score 15-touchdowns. Mitchell Bailey is a dangerous receiver, catching 59-passes for 849-yards and 7-scores. Kornelius Saxton made 46-catches for 4-TDs and 687-yards.
Thomas Gary-Homes and Walter Love III led Olivet in tackles with 58-tackles and Gary-Homes added 5-sacks. Justin Mader led the team with 10.5-sacks and Jaquan Short made 5-interceptions.
John Carroll enters the playoffs ranked No. 10, which is absolutely ridiculous. They beat the top team in the country heading into the post-season and should have received a lot more respect. Expect them to come into this game with a chip on their shoulders and make a statement. John Carroll wins 66-10.
By Robert Pannier