COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. – The streak is over for Johns Hopkins. For the Ursinus College football team, the dream is still very much alive.
Sophomore Thomas Garlick scored on an electrifying 8-yard scamper with 20.1 seconds left to give the Bears a 21-17 victory over No. 8 Johns Hopkins, ending the Blue Jays' 45-game regular-season winning streak and a 40-game run in Centennial Conference play. Now, it's Ursinus in the driver's seat.
The Bears (5-0, 4-0) matched its best start since a seven-game run to start the 2010 campaign with a wildly entertaining triumph that made them the story of the day in Division III and is sure to see them earn more votes in the next AFCA Coaches' Poll. Ursinus sits atop the CC standings alongside fellow unbeaten Franklin & Marshall, a 17-14 winner over Muhlenberg on Saturday.
"I'm proud of the way our kids fought today," said Ursinus head coach Pete Gallagher. "They showed a lot of guts and determination and made the plays they needed to to win."
Garlick's remarkable individual effort goes down as the winning play, but there were many to be had in a heavyweight showdown that ended in the Blue Jays' first loss since a 14-12 setback against Franklin & Marshall in 2012.
Trailing 17-14 after a 1-yard plunge by Johns Hopkins quarterback David Tammaro with 5:20 to play, Garlick and the Bears put together a 13-play, 74-yard drive that takes its place in the pantheon of top moments in the program's 125-year history. Backed up with a 3rd-and-15 from the Ursinus 32, the sophomore signal-caller fired a bullet to junior tight end Thomas Cardozo right at the sticks, and a 15-yard personal foul moved the ball up to the Blue Jays' 37.
Sophomore Stacey Gardner converted a 3rd-and-2 from the 29, and just did enough to pick up a 3rd-and-1 at the 11-yard line before a short carry and incomplete pass set up a 3rd-and-7 from just inside the 8. Looking for a receiver, and with the pocket collapsing around him, Garlick took off up the middle and veered off to his left into open space and the end zone, sending a capacity crowd into a frenzy.
Garlick extended his resume of late-game heroics, which includes a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of a 35-28 win at Gettysburg earlier this season.
The seven-time reigning CC champions did not go quietly. Tammaro hit Luke McFadden for a 31-yard gain to the Bears' 44 with 3.0 seconds left, giving the Blue Jays a shot at the end zone on a final play. After a false start, Tammaro's desperation heave into the wind fell to the turf well short of the end zone as Ursinus celebrated its first win in the series since 2010.
The Bears' version of "The Drive" would have been impossible if not for a sensational defensive performance that kept the home side in the game despite a deficit and horrible field position in the first half.
Garlick found Fortino on a deep pattern for a 67-yard touchdown strike on the second play from scrimmage, and Hopkins marched 80 yards on its opening drive, but the rest of the half – and much of the contest – between the conference's top two offensive squads morphed into a defensive struggle.
A 40-yard field goal by Jamie Sullivan made it 10-7 for the visitors early in the second quarter, and Ursinus went three-and-out on its next four drives. But the defense stood tall in unenviable circumstances.
Sullivan missed wide left from 30 yards on Hopkins' next drive, but the Blue Jays started their next two drives from the Bears' 49 and 40 – and lost five yards between the two. Three passes netted zero yards on the first, and a sack by sophomore Noah Thomas short-circuited the second as Ursinus stayed within a field goal at the break.
Following a Hopkins punt to open the third quarter, Garlick drove the Bears 75 yards in just four plays to take the lead. Before Gardner's two-yard plunge made it 14-10, Garlick completed a 26-yard pass to Fortino and a 34-yarder to senior Jonathan Gerhartz.
The Bears had several chances to stretch their lead, but a missed field goal and a costly fumble denied them the chance. Garlick was stripped inside the Blue Jays' 5, but Ursinus was bailed out by the defense once again as Tammaro was stopped cold on a 4th-down run from the 18.
Another missed field goal loomed large as Hopkins capped an 80-yard march with Tammaro's keeper – until Garlick orchestrated the drive that kept the Bears' quest for a conference championship alive and well.
Garlick finished 11-of-22 for 247 yards and a touchdown while also rushing 20 times for 104 yards – the second time in his career that he has gained 100 with both his arm and his legs. Fortino, fresh off a two-game absence due to injury, caught three passes for 111 yards and in the process became the seventh player in school history to eclipse 100 career receptions. Gerhartz added a career-high 93 yards with the help of a 59-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
Gardner 55 yards on 16 carries to become the 13th member of the career 1,000-yard rushing club at Ursinus.
Sophomore Jacob McCain was a force on the defensive end again, racking up 13 tackles and adding an interception – his second in as many games and the first thrown by Tammaro this season. Thomas had a sack and two tackles for loss in addition to a pass break-up, while senior Heath Hidlay added eight tackles and classmate Jamie Casseus produced three critical pass break-ups.
Tammaro was 20-of-41 for 258 yards and a touchdown, while Ryan Cary rushed 24 times for 97 yards.
Ursinus outgained the Blue Jays, 433-412, and held Hopkins to just 4.5 yards per play.
Now tied for first place with Franklin and Marshall, the Bears head to Muhlenberg next Saturday, October 7.