St. John's defeats archrival before 11,000
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — No. 6 Saint John's collected 709 yards total offense and jumped out to a 34-7 halftime lead to defeat St. Thomas 48-28 in front of more than 11,000 fans at Clemens Stadium in Collegeville, Minn. With the win SJU clinches at least a tie for this year's MIAC title and secures the automatic bid from the MIAC into the NCAA playoffs.
SJU scored touchdowns on its first three possessions as junior Blake Elliott caught touchdown passes of 5 and 65 yards from senior Ross Denne in the first seven minutes of the game to give the Johnnies a 13-0 lead. Senior Kent Crowley scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 5:28 remaining in the first quarter to make the score 20-0.
In the second quarter, junior Jed Riegelman caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Denne and the Johnnies led 27-0. Less than a minute later, UST got on the scoreboard as senior Jon Learn caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from senior Nick Ambrasas to make the score 27-7. The final scoring of the half came with 3:13 left as Elliott caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Denne. SJU had 514 yards total offense and 22 first downs in the first 30 minutes of play.
In the third quarter, UST senior Jake Barkley scored on a 2-yard run to cut the SJU lead to 34-14. Crowley found the end zone for the second time in the game at the 2:59 mark of the quarter as he scored on a 2-yard run. The Tommies answered right back as senior Andrew Hilliard scored on an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to cut the SJU lead to 41-21.
The fourth quarter saw Elliott score his fourth touchdown of the game, this time on a 4-yard run to make the score 48-21. The final scoring of the game came with 36 seconds remaining as Barkley scored on an 8-yard run for his second touchdown of the game.
SJU racked up huge offensive numbers all day as they passed for 445 yards and rushed for 264 yards. Six of SJU's seven touchdown drives covered at least 65 yards. Individually, Elliott caught nine passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. The three touchdown receptions for Elliott set a new SJU career record with 43 touchdown receptions.
Crowley had 265 all-purpose yards in the game -- 153 yards rushing on 21 carries and 112 yards receiving on nine receptions. Denne was 19-for-27 passing for 408 yards and four touchdowns before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. The 408 yards passing tied for the fourth highest single-game passing total in SJU history. Junior Cam McCambridge had 10 total tackles, two tackles for loss and four passes defended. Senior Jason Pflipsen collected his 10th interception of the season, which sets a new SJU single-season record.
St. Thomas ended up with 420 yards total offense, including 314 yards passing. Barkley rushed the ball 24 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Ambrasas was 25-of-42 passing for 314 yards and one touchdown. Hilliard had six receptions for 73 yards, while Barkley had 44 yards receiving on six receptions. The Tommies had 198 yards on eight kickoff returns, including two returns for 109 yards for Hilliard. Sophomore Steve Groth had 20 total tackles and 14 solo tackles, while junior John Kaiser had 15 total tackles.
SJU improved to 8-1 overall and 7-0 in the MIAC. The Johnnies have won eight games in a row and 15 consecutive MIAC games. SJU clinched at least a tie for their ninth MIAC title in the last 12 years, a MIAC record 26th overall in school history and 22nd title during the Gagliardi era at SJU.
SJU will be making its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance and eighth in the last 10 years. St. Thomas is now 5-4 overall and 5-2 in the MIAC. The Johnnies have now won 11 straight games at Clemens Stadium and are 42-28-1 all-time against the Tommies.