Before the season, I wrote a piece about the dominance of UW-Whitewater and Mount Union, and how they’ve owned D3 football for the last two decades. In that piece I talked about their dueling-dynasties, and how all things eventually come to an end. Then I profiled a team that could be the reason for that end: Mary Hardin-Baylor. This week, we’re going to talk about another potential contender: John Carroll.
The Blue Streaks played 11 games last season, and held their opponents to single-digits in nine of them. The defense pitched four shutouts and allowed only 10 touchdowns all last season. After nine games, they were on pace to allow 3.7 points per game. Then, in their season finale against Mount Union, the Purple Raiders scored more touchdowns and more points than every team they had faced so far combined and won 42-34.
Even with the loss to Mount Union, the Blue Streaks featured the second best defense in D3 last season. Only UW-Whitewater allowed fewer yards per game than John Carroll’s 229.1, and the two teams tied for the fewest points allowed per game at 9.1. So far this season, the defense has been even better. They’ve allowed a total of 23 points and 579 yards in their three games up to this point, 7.7 ppg and 173 ypg.
The offense has also showed improvement over last season’s numbers. They scored the 14th most points of any team in D3 a year ago with 41.9 ppg, so far this season — 44. Tommy Michals has 424 all-purpose yards and 4 TDs in three games, and Mark Myers has completed 50 of his 75 passes for 766 yards, 9 TDs, and only 1 INT despite sitting out garbage-time in all three games so far.
John Carroll returned more than half of their starting defense from last season. UW-Whitewater had far more losses on that side of the ball, so the “best defense in D3” mantle is definitely up for grabs. The Blue Streaks also have their quarterback, their top rusher, and their leading receiver back this year — veterans who will know what’s at stake when they get their shot at revenge over Mount Union.
The Blue Streaks lost only twice last season, once to St. John Fisher in the first round of the playoffs, and once to [tooltip text=”Mount Union” gravity=”n”]Of course.[/tooltip]. The Purple Raiders and Blue Streaks are both members of the Ohio Athletic Conference, but it’s not really fair to call them rivals. Mount Union has taken the last 22 conference titles in a row.
The schedule sets up very favorably for John Carroll to be undefeated when they face Mount Union in both teams’ regular season finale. Only three teams on their schedule have a HeroSports better than BR-99 — they already beat BR-47 Heidelberg, they’ll travel to face BR-78 Ohio Northern this weekend, and then BR-5 Mount Union at the end.
The Purple Raiders’ ownership of the OAC is probably wearing a little thin in University Heights, but it has to come to an end one day. The Blue Streaks have a chance to make sure that day is November 15 of this year.