St. John's avoids upset bid at hands of archrival
ST. PAUL — Junior Brandon Keller kicked a 35-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining to lift No. 2-ranked St. John's to a 15-12 victory over host St. Thomas in MIAC action in O'Shaughnessy Stadium before a standing-room crowd estimated at 7,300.
The victory let St. John's coach John Gagliardi tie Eddie Robinson's record with 408 college football coaching victories. Gagliardi is now 408-114-10 in 55 seasons, the last 51 at St. John's. The Johnnies host unbeaten Bethel Nov. 8 for the MIAC championship and the chance to break Robinson's record.
Keller is now 5-for-5 on field goals under 40 yards this season.
"I was just thinking '35-yard field goal through the uprights.' That's all I could think," Keller told Spirit 93 radio following the game. "It's been an honor to play for John. Just an amazing opportunity to kick for him and to just be part of everything here at St. John's is an awesome thing."
The Johnnies (8-0 overall, 7-0 MIAC) remained unbeaten in the conference and won their 23rd consecutive MIAC game. But for the first time all season, they trailed in the second half, and they had a streak of consecutive games with 20 or more points end at 21.
The upset-minded Tommies (3-6, 3-4) lost their third game of the season by three or less points.
St. Thomas trailed 7-6 at halftime but took a 12-7 lead on Joe Lepsche's 5-yard pass from Justin Lockrem with 5:46 left in the third quarter. It was Lepsche's first college reception.
St. Thomas took a safety rather than punt out of its own end zone with 7:07 left in the game, cutting the lead to 12-9.
Keller's 20-yard field goal had tied the score at 12-12 with 3:16 to play. After a Tommie fumble was recovered by SJU's Mike Zauhar at the St. Thomas 43-yard line with 3:04 left, the Johnnies had one first down and reached the 18-yard line before the drive stalled to set up the game-winning field goal.
St. John's had 347 yards of total offense to St. Thomas' 230 yards. SJU All-American Blake Elliott caught eight passes for 63 yards and no TDs, breaking the Division III record for consecutive games with at least one catch, now with 41.
SJU sophomore Jake Thies rushed 18 times for 81 yards including a four-yard TD run in the second quarter. Ryan Keating completed 26 of 38 passes for 242 yards and three interceptions. Lee Clintsman caught six passes for 74 yards.
St. Thomas senior Justin Kostner rushed 27 times for 95 yards and a 4-yard TD run early in the second quarter. Lockrem was 13-for-24 passing for 111 yards and one TD with one pickoff. Soph linebacker Andrew Ubbelohde had a game-high 15 tackles and Steve Groth, Dustin Peltier and Joe Skaja had interceptions for the Tommies.