This past Saturday, the Muhlenberg football team kept its perfect season intact with a 31-16 victory over Johns Hopkins. Beating the Blue Jays is a tremendous accomplishment for the Mules, as they ended an eight-game losing streak against the powerful Centennial Conference foe and have moved one step forward to clinching their first outright Centennial Conference Championship since 2008.
Since the beginning of the season, the Muhlenberg vs. Johns Hopkins game has been highly anticipated, as both teams have finished at the top of the conference standings in recent years. The game has major implications for both the Centennial Conference Championship and postseason play. Linebacker Mickey Kober ‘20, stated that beating Johns Hopkins is a monumental moment for his career as a Mule. “Beating Hopkins as a senior is probably my favorite memory to date in my Muhlenberg football career thus far,” Kober explained. “There is so much tradition that goes into this game, and it is always circled on the schedule by both teams. I feel as though all the hard work that the Class of 2020 has put in finally paid off. Going into the game, Coach Milne reminded us
that Hopkins was the only Centennial Conference team that we had not beaten in our career. So, going out and getting the win made it that much more special for all of us.”
Maintaining an undefeated record and ending a long losing streak against the Blue Jays played an important role in Saturday’s victory, but playing in front of a large Parents Weekend crowd at Scotty Wood Stadium also played a pivotal role in the win.
Wide receiver Mitch Daniel ‘21 reflected on the significance of having his family and friends watching the victory from the bleachers. “It meant the world to me to be able to win such a big game in front of my friends and family. I’m so grateful for them,” Daniel said.
The large and enthusiastic Scotty Wood Stadium crowd also was a motivating factor for the entire team. Kober explained the significance of playing in front of a packed home crowd.
“Scotty Wood Stadium is always an awesome place to play, but when the bleachers are packed it makes the atmosphere electric,” Kober said. “I believe that the fans had a huge impact on the game in terms of cheering and motivating our team to play their absolute best. This family weekend was the most amount of people that I saw on [Muhlenberg’s] campus at one time. The campus was teeming with Muhlenberg spirit.”
Beating Johns Hopkins and maintaining a perfect record comes from hard work and preparation before the season even began. “Our eight straight victories are due to hard work and dedication not just over the past couple of weeks, but in the off-season as well. We have worked for this,” Daniel continued.
Understanding the context of Muhlenberg football and its rivalry against Johns Hopkins was another driving force for the Mules victory. Kober reminisced on the support he received from many former football alumni, and the eagerness to play well for the alumni inspires the team to play at their highest level.
“The support from the alumni was one of the driving factors that contributed to our eighth straight victory,” said Kober. “I cannot tell you the amount of times that I have received a good luck text from a former teammate or Muhlenberg football alumni. Each and every player on our team recognized the rich history of Muhlenberg football and we strive to make all the alumni proud.”
On the field, the Mules found success by generating big plays on offense and capitalizing on Johns Hopkins turnovers. During their first possession, running back James Diggs ‘21 took the ball 68 yards to the one-yard line setting up a Michael Hnatkowsky ‘21 touchdown run. A fumble recovery by Dante Lonardo ‘20 and a John Washington ‘22 interception were key defensive plays in the first half that led to touchdowns by Nick DeLucas ‘20 and Ryan Curtiss ‘20.
By playing well on both sides of the ball, the Mules went into the locker room at halftime with a comfortable 24-6 lead. In the second half, Johns Hopkins found better success on offense, but the Mules defense was able to hold their ground and did not let the Blue Jays cut too deep into their lead. Even after a 75-yard touchdown early in the second half and several long drives into Muhlenberg territory, the defense was able to hold their ground and help preserve a 31-16 victory.
Kober praises the defense’s ability to battle adversity as well as the offense’s success to dominate the time of possession and convert on key third downs. “From top to bottom, we played Muhlenberg defense which thrives off the tenants of ‘bend don’t break.’ There were points in the game when Hopkins’ offense was moving the ball, but at the end of each drive we found a way to “Dig In” and make the crucial stop when it needed to be made,” said Kober. “I think it’s important to note that our offense also did a great job methodically converting on third downs and winning time of possession, which kept [Johns Hopkins’] high-powered offense off the field. It was a great overall team effort.”
This coming Saturday, the Mules travel to Gettysburg and look to stay among the top of the Centennial Conference standings. While the Mules look to win a Centennial Conference Championship and make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the Mules’ main focus is on getting past Gettysburg. Daniel stresses that the Mules desire to continue their winning ways now and into the playoffs, but emphasizes the importance of not looking too far ahead in the schedule.
“Obviously, our goals are to keep winning and to make it as far as possible,” said Daniel. “We believe we have the talent to compete with anybody. For now, though, we are focused on winning our next contest at Gettysburg.”
The Mules look to extend their season winning streak to nine and clinch a Centennial Conference title at Gettysburg at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 9.