LANCASTER, PA -- Tailback TJ Lyons rushed 37 times for 173 net yards, caught six passes for 83 yards and scored twice as the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (4-1, 1-1 Centennial Conference) rolled up 397 yards of total offense to escape Franklin & Marshall (4-2, 1-1 Centennial Conference) 20-14 in football.
The Blue Jays held the advantage in nearly every category including first downs (24-14), first downs rushing (12-1), first downs passing (11-10), rushing attempts (51-22), yards gained rushing (218-38), net yards rushing (196-15), passes completed (17-16), interceptions (2-1), total offensive plays (80-59), total net yards (397-282), average gain per play (5.0-4.8), penalties (5 for 77-4 for 19), punt returns (5 for 70-2 for 7), third down conversions (6 of 16-5 of 16) and time of possession (37:08-22:52), while F&M led in net yards passing (267-201), passes attempted (37-29), kickoff returns (5 for 70-2 for 37) and average per punt (39.9-39.2).
Franklin & Marshall took the lead early in the game as quarterback Jeff Harner (So., Mohrsville, PA/Schuylkill Valley) hit wide receiver Derek Boyce (Jr., Lancaster, PA/Lampeter-Strasburg) for a 79-yard touchdown connection on the first play from scrimmage in the game to put F&M in front 7-0 18 seconds into the game.
Hopkins closed the gap with 4:34 left in the first quarter as Ben Scott converted a 31 field goal attempt to cap a 14 play, 69 yard drive to pull JHU to within 7-3.
The Blue Jays would take the lead after F&M's next drive as Adam Colicchio intercepted a Harner pass from the F&M 22 at the F&M 49 on third-and-nine to put Hopkins within F&M territory.
Johns Hopkins needed four plays to convert on the field position as Zach DiIonno dumped a pass off to Lyons who broke tackles and scampered his way down the middle of the field for a 38 yard touchdown run on second-and-10 for a 10-7 JHU lead with 2:13 left in the first quarter.
Franklin & Marshall countered on their next possession as Harner hit tightend Matt Mondonedo (So., Silver Spring, MD/James Hubert Blake) for a 55-yard touchdown completion to cap an eight play, 82 yard drive and put the Diplomats back in front 14-10 with 13:42 left in the second quarter.
However, JHU fired back as Scott drilled a 42-yard field goal on JHU's next possession to finish a 12 play, 51-yard drive with 9:40 left in the first half.
Following an eight play, 31 yard drive by the Diplomats to the Hopkins 46 and a 34 yard punt by kicker Dan Eggertsson (Sr., Royal Palm, FL/Suncoast) to put JHU at their own 12 yard line with 7:27 to go until halftime, the Blue Jays offense went to work on the ground.
Lyons rushed four times for 54 yards and quarterback Zach DiIonno rushed for two yards to put JHU on the F&M 32-yard line with a first down. DiIonno completed a pass to Brian Wolcott for eight yards down to the F&M 24 and Zach Rupert rushed for 10 yards to put Hopkins at the F&M 14 with another first down. Lyons did the rest rushing for gains of six and three yards to move the ball down to the F&M five-yard line before bursting through the line on third-and-one for a touchdown as the Blue Jays carried a 20-14 lead into the break.
Both teams had their chances to add to the score in the second half, but neither could cash in as Johns Hopkins nor the Diplomats found the endzone or the uprights in the last 30 minutes of the game.
On F&M's first possession of the second half, Harner's second-and-10 pass attempt from the JHU 44 was picked off and returned to the JHU 45 by Max Whitacre to set Hopkins up within five yards of Diplomats' territory.
Following a five yard rush to the 50 yard line by Lyons, DiIonno attempted to pass down the sideline for a touchdown, but F&M's Ryan Sychterz (Jr., Sinking Spring, PA/Holy Name) picked off the pass at the Franklin & Marshall 9 and returned the ball out to the 11 with 10:18 left in the third quarter.
However, the JHU defense stiffened as Harner hit Boyce for a 14 yard gain to the F&M 25, but a rush for no gain by tailback Scott Stephen (Sr., Glen Rock, NJ/Glen Rock) and back-to-back incomplete passes brought up a 36 yard punt by Eggertsson to end the challenge.
Both team's inability to score continued in the fourth quarter as Scott pulled a 31 yard field goal wide right with 10:06 left on the game clock to set F&M up at their own 20 yard line for a drive.
Harner hit fullback Rick Dunlap (So., Boothwyn, PA/Garnet Valley) for an eight yard gain to the 28, but Dunlap's rushing attempt on second down was stopped at the line and a pass by Harner to wideout Chris Wagner (Fr., Media, PA/Penncrest) was incomplete to bring up a 49 yard punt by Eggertsson down to the JHU 23.
The Blue Jays couldn't muster a drive as Hopkins went 30 yards on six plays before Scott punted into the F&M endzone for a touchback to give the Diplomats back the ball at their own 20 yard line with 5:42 left on the clock.
Following an incomplete pass, Harner connected with Wagner for a seven-yard gain before hitting Boyce for a six-yard gain to the F&M 33 to move the chains. On first down, Stephen rushed for three yards to the F&M 36 and Harner connected with Mondonedo for a four-yard gain on second-and-seven out to the F&M 40. However, Max Whitacre swatted down Harner's next pass attempt to bring up fourth-and-three before the JHU defense was pulled offsides on a hard snap count to put F&M at their own 45 with a first down.
The Diplomats' luck ran out on the remainder of the drive as an illegal procedure call backed F&M up to the 40 and Stephen was tackled in the backfield by Brian Cook for a five yard loss to bring up second-and-20 from the F&M 35. Harner connected with Mondonedo for an 11-yard gain, but back-to-back pass attempts to Boyce on third-and-nine and fourth-and-nine were broken up by Matt Hagel to close out F&M's 11 play, 26-yard drive.
Taking over the ball with 2:00 to go, Hopkins attempted to run out the clock as Lyons was stopped in the backfield for a loss of four yards by defensive back Chris Stepien (Jr., Fairfield, NJ/West Essex), picked up five yards on a second-and-14 rush to force F&M to call a timeout. After the break, DiIonno connected with Wolcott for a 10-yard gain down to the F&M 35 for a first down as Hopkins ran out the clock for the six-point victory.
Overall, Harner finished the game 16-for-37 for 267 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions, while Boyce led the Diplomats' receivers with six catches for 137 yards.
On defense, F&M's Stepien led all players with 14 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss of seven yards, while linebacker Joe LoCastro (Jr., Cherry Hill, NJ/Camden Catholic) added 12 hits with one tackle-for-loss of five yards.
For Hopkins, DiIonno completed 17-of-29 attempts for 201 yards with one passing touchdown and an interception, while Hagel recorded eight tackles to lead the Blue Jays defense.
The loss marks F&M's first in a game decided by seven or fewer points since the Diplomats fell 10-6 at home to McDaniel College on October 25, 2002 and marks the closest game against Johns Hopkins since a 21-20 loss at home in the second to last game of the 2000 season.
Due to a 23-3 win by Muhlenberg at Dickinson, there is now a four way log jam for second place in the Centennial Conference standings as Muhlenberg, F&M, Hopkins and Dickinson are all 1-1 in CC play to stand behind 2-0 McDaniel College.
Following a bye week on October 16, the Diplomats will continue the season versus Dickinson College on October 23 in the annual Alumni Weekend and Conestoga Wagon game. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m.