Crusaders Visit Newly-Ranked John Carroll

Wide receiver Zak Wirick. (Jeff Mills photo).
Wide receiver Zak Wirick. (Jeff Mills photo).


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The Capital University football team begins a stretch of four of its next five games on the road Saturday against No. 24 John Carroll University in an Ohio Athletic Conference contest at Don Shula Stadium in University Heights, Ohio.


The Crusaders (1-2 overall, 1-1 OAC) look to bring their overall record back to .500 following a 38-24 setback against Ohio Northern on Homecoming Saturday at Bernlohr Stadium.


The Blue Streaks (3-0, 2-0), who have entered the Top 25 for the first time since 2007, bested Otterbein 28-0 in their home opener last Saturday.


John Carroll has won three straight and four of the last five meetings against Capital. The Blue Streaks lead the all-time series, 17-9-1.


On Saturday, the Crusaders rolled up 314 yards of total offense and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes of the contest, cutting their deficit to one score under a minute into the fourth quarter.


Capital forced the Polar Bears to punt, but a penalty for running into the kicker extended the Ohio Northern drive and proved to be crippling. The Polar Bears went on to find the end zone with just over seven minutes to play and retake control of the contest.


Capital also surrendered a blocked punt, which was recovered in the end zone for an Ohio Northern touchdown, in the second quarter.


"We had our opportunities," Capital coach Craig Candeto said. "I think there were probably four to five plays in that game that, had we taken advantage and executed, we would have been right in that football game.


"We had a few special teams blunders, but I'm not pin-pointing the loss solely on special teams. There are areas offensively and defensively where we could have done better."


Freshman quarterback Chase Longwell (Hilliard, Ohio) rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown while throwing for another 138 and two scores to lead the Crusaders.


"I think Chase played pretty well," Candeto said. "He made a couple of bad decisions, but he was solid on his reads, even better than last week."


Sophomore wide receiver Zak Wirick (West Liberty, Ohio) enjoyed a breakout game with four receptions, including two acrobatic plays, for 67 yards and a one-handed touchdown grab. Sophomore b-back Bo Hardy (Galloway, Ohio) accounted for the team's other touchdown with a 38-yard catch-and-run to start the fourth quarter.


"Zak had a nice game," Candeto said. "He went up and made some plays in the air when the ball was up there. That's the type of stuff we need on offense. Chase's throws weren't perfect, and Zak went up and made plays on both of them."


Defensively, Candeto lauded the physical play and effort of senior defensive back Domenic Hebebrand (Hinckley, Ohio), who posted six solo tackles, including one for a loss.


Junior defensive end Gene Rucker (Marion, Ohio), senior linebacker Kyle Shaeffer (Pickerington, Ohio), freshman defensive lineman Luke Scott (West Chester, Ohio) and junior linebacker TJ Langermeier (West Jefferson, Ohio) registered seven stops each.


John Carroll took a 21-0 halftime lead en route to victory over Otterbein. Running back DaQuan Grobsmith accounted for two of the Blue Streaks' touchdowns and rushed for 59 yards in the contest. Quarterback Mark Myers was 23-of-40 for 226 yards and two touchdowns.


The Blue Streaks, who have outscored opponents 96-7 three games into the season, allowed the Cardinals just 46 rushing yards and posted seven quarterback sacks in the shutout. Linebackers Matt Feeney and Mitch Krotz led the unit with nine tackles apiece.


Led by Myers, John Carroll currently leads the conference with 351.3 passing yards per affair.


"They've got a very good offense that we've got to stop," Candeto said. "Their quarterback is a very good player, and they throw it around a lot. We need to be able to get some pressure on the quarterback and play great coverage as well."


The Blue Streaks' defense leads the nation in scoring defense (2.3 points per game) and leads the conference in several categories, including total defense (177.7 yards per game) and third down conversion defense (21.4 percent).


"Offensively, we need to take care of the football," Candeto said. "They're a very athletic and very quick defense. They've got two shutouts this year, so we need to keep our defense off the field and try to sustain drives."