W&J-Johns Hopkins NCAA Football Playoff Game Preview
Presidents’ Athletic Conference Champion Washington & Jefferson College (8-2)
Centennial Conference Champion Johns Hopkins University (9-1)
NCAA Division III First Round -- Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012
Place: Baltimore, Md.
Site: Homewood Field (8,500)
Series: First meeting
THE SERIES: Washington & Jefferson and Johns Hopkins meet for the first time in history for the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. W&J is making its 22nd trip to the NCAA playoffs, while the Blue Jays are in the tournament for the third time in the last four years and fourth overall.
THE HEAD COACHES: One of college football's most successful coaches, Mike Sirianni (Mount Union ’94) owns a 93-20 (.823) record in his 10th season as the W&J head coach. The four-time PAC Coach of the Year and 2004 South Region Coach of the Year has led W&J to seven playoff berths and has a 5-6 mark in those games. Jim Margraff (Johns Hopkins '82) has guided Johns Hopkins to a 156-80-3 record since taking over at his alma mater in 1990. Margraff is the Blue Jays' all-time wins leader.
W&J vs. THE CENTENNIAL CONFERENCE: W&J has amassed a 30-12-2 (.705) all-time record against current members of the Centennial Conference. The Presidents last faced an opponent from the league during the 2011 season opener when they blanked Juniata 40-0. W&J is 2-1 in the NCAA postseason against Centennial competition, having most recently defeated McDaniel (formerly Western Maryland) 24-21 in the 2001 first round.
Frank. & Marsh. (5-2)
Johns Hopkins (0-0)
W&J'S NCAA DIVISION III PLAYOFF HISTORY:
1984 W&J 22, Randolph-Macon 21 at Randolph-Macon
Central (Iowa) 20, W&J 0 at Central (Iowa) (Nat'l Semis)
1986 Susquehanna 28, W&J 20 at W&J
1987 W&J 23, Allegheny 20 (OT) at Allegheny
Emory & Henry 23, W&J 16 at W&J
1989 Ferrum 41, W&J 7 at Ferrum
1990 W&J 10, Ferrum 7 at W&J
Lycoming 24, W&J 0 at W&J
1991 Lycoming 18, W&J 16 at Lycoming
1992 W&J 33, Lycoming 0 at Lycoming
W&J 51, Emory & Henry 15 at W&J
W&J 18, Rowan 13 at Rowan
Wisconsin-Lacrosse 16, W&J 12 (Stagg Bowl)
1993 W&J 27, Moravian 7 at W&J
W&J 28, Frostburg State 7 at Frostburg State
Rowan 23, W&J 16 at W&J (National Semifinals)
1994 W&J 28, Trinity (Texas) 0 at Trinity
W&J 37, Widener 21 at W&J
W&J 23, Ithaca 19 at Ithaca
Albion 38, W&J 15 (Stagg Bowl)
1995 W&J 35, Emory & Henry 16 at W&J
W&J 48, Lycoming 0 at W&J
Rowan 28, W&J 15 at W&J (National Semifinals)
1996 Albright 31, W&J 17 at W&J
1999 W&J 14, Lycoming 7 at Lycoming
Hardin-Simmons 51, W&J 3 at H-SC
2000 Bridgewater (Va.) 59, W&J 42 at W&J
2001 W&J 24, Western Maryland 21 at W&J
Widener 46, W&J 30 at Widener
2002 W&J 24, Christopher Newport 10 at W&J
Trinity (Texas) 45, W&J 10 at TU
2004 W&J 55, Bridgewater (Va.) 48 (2OT) at W&J
W&J 24, Christopher Newport 14 at W&J
Mary Hardin-Baylor 52, W&J 16 at W&J
2005 Bridgewater (Va.) 30, W&J 21 at Bridgewater
2006 W&J 27, Christopher Newport 23 at CNU
Mary Hardin-Baylor 30, W&J 27 at UMH-B
2007 North Carolina Wesleyan 35, W&J 34 (OT) at W&J
2008 W&J 35, Christopher Newport 29 at W&J
W&J 35, Millsaps 20 at Millsaps
Mary Hardin-Baylor 63, W&J 7 at UMH-B
2009 Mount Union 55, W&J 0 at Mount Union
SCOUTING JOHNS HOPKINS: Johns Hopkins has been one of NCAA Division III's most successful programs under the guidance of Head Coach Jim Margraff. Margraff, who recently earned his second-straight Centennial Conference Coach of the Year, has led the Blue Jays to four consecutive seasons of eight-plus victories, including a 10-0 regular season last year. The 9-1 Blue Jays possess one of the nation's best offenses, ranking 11th in the nation at 495.0 yards per game. JHU relies primarily on a rushing attack that averages 262.6 yards per game (13th in nation). Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Year, senior running back Jonathan Rigaud, leads the team and is the country's 19th-leading rusher with 126.2 yards per game. He is also ninth in Division III in scoring with 20 touchdowns. Four different back have rushed for over 200 yards and the team has combined for 41 rushing touchdowns, while the JHU defense has only allowed nine on the ground. Junior quarterback Robbie Matey completes 70 percent of his passes (180-257) for 1,999 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has thrown 12 interceptions. Matey's primary target is junior wideout Daniel Wodicka, who is tied for 15th nationally with 76 receptions. Defensively, senior linebacker Taylor Maciow is the Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Year after compiling 78 tackles and four sacks. Fourteen different Blue Jays have notched at least one sack for 33 total which ranks 11th in NCAA Division III. As a team, Johns Hopkins ranks 16th nationally in yards allowed (272.4 ypg) and 24th in scoring defense (14.9 ppg). The Blue Jays' only loss occurred two weeks ago in Lancaster, Pa., when Franklin & Marshall edged JHU 14-12. The Blue Jays saw their 22-game, regular-season win streak come to an end after falling behind 14-0. Johns Hopkins had a 447-318 yardage advantage, but Matey did not return to the game after the first series of the second half.
NICE NOVEMBERS: The Presidents own a 25-6 record under Head Coach Mike Sirianni during the month of November, including an 13-4 record in road games. Three of those road losses have occurred during the NCAA Division III playoffs.
MELHORN SECTION: Senior linebacker Nathan Melhorn enters Saturday's game with a streak of 28 consecutive games with at least one tackle. Melhorn has 180 career stops (100 solo) and is third on the team this year with 76.
EVEN OR ODD: W&J has outscored its opponents 59-34 during the first quarter and 106-34 in the third quarter of games this season; however, the Presidents have been even (61-61) in the second quarter and have been outscored 71-27 during the final 15 minutes. In Mike Sirianni's previous nine years as head coach, W&J has only been outscored in a quarter for an entire year only twice, the fourth quarters of the 2003 (54-52) and the 2010 (64-29) seasons.
HISTORY LESSON: W&J is 11 victories shy of becoming the third program in NCAA Division III history to win 700 games. W&J is competing in its 121st varsity season (689-379-40) and is third behind Wittenberg (716) and Mount Union (709) among NCAA Division III schools. Widener (660) and Williams (632) round out the top five. Competing in its 128th varsity season, Johns Hopkins boasts a 485-475-57 all-time record (.505).
JUST WIN BABY: W&J clinched its 29th consecutive winning season in 2012. The Presidents' active streak ranks fifth among NCAA schools (all divisions) behind Linfield (57), Florida State (36), Mount Union (34) and Florida (33).
EB AND FLOW: Junior placekicker Eric Eberle connected on all four extra-point attempts against Waynesburg and has made 33 consecutive extra-point tries. Eberle has also made six-straight field goals after drilling his third field goal of 40 yards or longer this fall. He has connected on 10-of-13 field-goal attempts (T23rd in NCAA Division III) and became the first W&J kicker to make 10 field goals in a season since current Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl '03 in 2002. Ravenstahl made 11-of-17 field goals during his senior year. Eberle has punted 54 times with an average of 37.2 yards and a long of 61. He also has five touchbacks as the Presidents’ kickoff specialist. During his career, Eberle has connected on 95 percent (52-55) of his extra-point tries and 74 percent (14-19) of his field-goal attempts. His 44-yarder against Thiel was the longest field goal make by a President since Mike Evan '97 hit a 48-yarder in 1995.
CATCHING ON: Junior wide receiver Alex Baroffio tied a career high with three touchdown receptions against Waynesburg. His 11 catches lifted him past W&J Hall of Famer Ryan Silvis '01 for fifth place on the school's career reception list with 174. David Ravida '09 is the all-time leader with 192. Baroffio, who played quarterback against Thiel, also surpassed the 2,000-yard receiving mark against the Yellow Jackets (2,129). Silvis owns the career receiving yard record (3,155). Heading into the NCAA playoffs, Baroffio is 10th in NCAA Division III with 8.2 receptions per game and 16th in punt return average (13.36 ypr).
AMONG THE BEST: Junior quarterback Matt Bliss eclipsed the 4,000-yard career passing mark with 256 yards through the air against Waynesburg. Bliss has 4,115 passing yards and is 816 yards shy of passing Bob Strope '93 for fifth place all-time at W&J. Bliss completed over 80 percent of his passes (21-of-26) for the first time in his 19-game career.
STEPPING UP: Senior linebacker Ian Hennessy recorded his seventh career double-digit tackle game Saturday with 11 stops (five solo). Hennessy has 61 tackles in his last six games, including four 10-plus efforts.
TOP OF THE PAC: Head Coach Mike Sirianni was honored as the Presidents' Athletic Conference Coach of the Year earlier this week for the fourth time during his career. Sirianni has led W&J to seven NCAA playoff appearances and four PAC titles during his tenure. Prior to the start of the 2012 season, only four coaches owned a better winning percentage than Sirianni in all of college football: Lance Leipold of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Larry Kehres of Mount Union, Chris Petersen of Boise State and Jeff Devanney of Trinity (Conn.). Sirianni's brother, Nick, is the wide receivers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
NFL TIES: W&J is proud of its alumni currently playing major roles in the National Football League. Commissioner Roger Goodell is a 1981 W&J graduate, while Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin graduated in 1984. Philbin played one season as a tight end before becoming a student coach. 2001 graduate Chris Mosley serves as the assistant offensive line coach on Philbin's staff in Miami. Mosley played fullback for two seasons for the Presidents and also spent time at his alma mater as an assistant coach.
PLAYOFF RETURN: W&J is back in the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2009 when eventual national runner-up Mount Union defeated the Presidents 55-0 in Alliance, Ohio. Zach DeCicco (3 catches, 25 yards) and Ian Hennessy are the only current Presidents to play in that game. Cecil Shorts had seven catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns for UMU. Shorts is currently third in the NFL with an average of 19.3 yards per reception for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
PLAYOFF VETS: W&J's 22 appearances in the NCAA Division III playoffs are the second-most in history. Only Mount Union (24) has made more appearances. Among teams in this year's NCAA playoffs, Wittenberg (15), Rowan (14) and Widener (13) join W&J and Mount Union for most playoff showings. Mount Union has appeared in the national tournament every year since 1992 and owns 73 NCAA playoff victories. W&J's 21 NCAA victories tie Central (Iowa) for seventh place all-time.
PRESIDENTS IN THE POSTSEASON: Washington & Jefferson has posted a 21-21 record in NCAA play, including a 10-12 mark on the road. In first round games, W&J owns a 13-8 record (6-4 in road contests).
ON DECK: The winner of the W&J/Johns Hopkins game meets the winner of the Christopher Newport/Mount Union winner. The 2010 playoffs marked the only even year NCAA tournament since 2000 that the Presidents did not played CNU.
ACADEMIC AWARD: Senior defensive tackle John Watts was recently selected to the Capital One Academic All-District Football Team. Watts, who owns a 3.63 grade-point average as an accounting major, is the 26th President to earn an academic all-district award since Head Coach Mike Sirianni took over in 2003. Watts was a District IV selection which includes all NCAA Division III football players from Pennsylvania. The 6-foot-1, 240-pounder transferred to W&J from Division I Elon University. He has started all 10 games this year and has recorded 28 tackles, including five for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. Watts picked up a career-high five tackles during the Presidents’ 17-0 shutout at Thiel on September 22.
PAC MEN: Six Presidents earned First Team All-PAC laurels, including running back Tim McNerney, and a total of 17 players garnered honors from the conference. McNerney, seniors Ian Hennessy and Nathan Melhorn and juniors Zach Wildey, Alex Baroffio and Eric Eberle were all first-team honorees. Second-team selections included senior John Watts and juniors Andrew Pingitore, Dion Wiegand and B.J. Monacelli. Honorable-mention selections included seven Presidents: seniors Hunter Creel and Mike Mastellino and junior Matt Bliss as offensive honorees, while seniors Zach DeCicco, John Hunter and DeAndre Simmons and sophomore Jon Lowery were defensive award winners. McNerney was honored posthumously as a unanimous First Team All-PAC selection. McNerney ran for 461 yards and four touchdowns on 89 carries in four games before his tragic death on October 4. During his career, McNerney accumulated 2,336 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground. Following its 31-14 victory over Waynesburg on Saturday, the team dedicated its 23rd PAC title to McNerney and his family in his memory.
NINE ALIVE: W&J is hoping to secure its 17th nine-win season since 1992. The only years during this stretch in which W&J did not have at least nine victories were 1996 (8-2), 1997 (6-3), 1998 (5-4) and 2011 (6-4).
GOOD WILL HUNTERS: W&J has received significant contributions from its senior "Hunters" this season, linebacker John Hunter and wide receiver Hunter Creel. John was selected to D3football.com's National Team of the Week, becoming the second W&J player to earn a spot on the national honor roll this year as sophomore Jon Lowery was chosen in week five. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker set a career high in W&J’s biggest game of the season Saturday with 15 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, during the Presidents’ victory over Waynesburg. Hunter finished the regular season tied for the team lead with 82 tackles (T8th in PAC). Prior to this season, Hunter had seven career tackles. Creel is W&J's big-play receiving threat with 556 yards and five touchdowns on 42 receptions. Creel has caught at least one pass in all 19 games he has suited up for the red black. He enters the playoffs with 85 career catches for 950 yards and nine touchdowns.
NICE TO MEET YOU: Despite a combined 249 years of varsity football and only 261 miles separating the campuses, W&J and Johns Hopkins have never played a college football game against one another. In fact, the two schools have only met in head-to-head competition 18 times and JHU holds a 16-2 edge. Most recently, the schools played a men's water polo match won by the Blue Jays 22-6. W&J's two victories against JHU came ironically during the same week in November 1997. The W&J wrestling team posted a 40-10 victory at the Gettysburg Duals and seven days later, the Presidents' volleyball team earned a 3-1 victory over JHU in the ECAC Tournament first round at New York University. The schools have met in the NCAA Tournament once, a 10-2 South Regional victory for Johns Hopkins over W&J on May 15, 2009.
WATCH OUT FOR: Under Head Coach Mike Sirianni, the Presidents hold a 71-3 record when leading at halftime. Turnovers have plagued W&J in its recent losses. Since the start of the 2010 season, W&J has lost eight times. In those games, W&J has turned the ball over 27 times (14 INT, 13 FL), while only forcing 10 turnovers (5 INT, 5 FR).
ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT: The punting game may play an important factor in Saturday's game as Johns Hopkins ranks 201st out of 240 NCAA Division III teams with an average of 28.75 yards per punt. On the flip side, W&J is one of the nation's best punt return units, ranking 31st with an average of 12.8 yards per return. W&J's Eric Eberle is 67th in the country in punting at 37.2 yards per punt.
FINISH STRONG: W&J has won its last eight regular-season finales, including four against Waynesburg. The Presidents have outscored their opponents 330-124 in those contests and only three games have been decided by less than 18 points. W&J’s last loss in a regular season finale was in 2003, a 10-7 setback to Buffalo State.
THE FREE STATE: Johns Hopkins becomes the fifth opponent W&J will have played throughout its history from Maryland. The Presidents hold a 10-6-1 record in games versus Frostburg State (6-0), McDaniel (3-0), Navy (1-4-1) and Salisbury (0-2).
ABOVE THE LINE: The W&J offensive line has allowed 24 sacks this season, the fewest since opponents were limited to 19 during the 2009 season. Since allowing five sacks in the Thomas More loss, the Presidents have only surrendered six sacks in the past four games. Defensively, W&J's 21 sacks a the fewest since the 2002 team finished the season with 20. The 2002 Presidents made the NCAA second round after beating Christopher Newport 24-10 in round one.