St. John's streaks past St. Norbert in second round

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COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — The Saint John's University football team scored 24 unanswered points to defeat St. Norbert College 38-13 on Saturday, Nov. 29, in the second round of the NCAA Division III football playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 29, at Clemens Stadium in Collegeville, Minn.

SJU took the opening kickoff and went 57 yards in seven plays as senior wide receiver Blake Elliott caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Ryan Keating. With the extra point, SJU led 7-0 with 12:04 left in the first quarter.

After a three-and-out for St. Norbert, senior running back Josh Nelson scored on a 17-yard touchdown run. With junior Brandon Keller's extra point, SJU led 14-0 less than six minutes into the game.

St. Norbert got on the scoreboard with 2:04 left in the first quarter as sophomore running back Aljay Wren scored on a 4-yard run. The touchdown was set up by a SJU fumble on the SJU five-yard line.

In the second quarter, the Green Knights got within one point of SJU at 14-13 after field goals of 27 and 38 yards by junior Addy Silverthorn. The second field goal came with 3:10 left in the half and both field goals were set up by SJU turnovers.

On the first play from scrimmage for SJU after St. Norbert cut the lead to one point, Elliott scored on a 60-yard run to make the halftime score 21-13 in favor of the Johnnies.

The only scoring of the third quarter was a 15-yard touchdown run by Nelson with 8:12 left to give SJU a 28-13 lead.

SJU continued its scoring in the fourth quarter as Keller hit a 27-yard field goal on the first play of the final 15 minutes.

The final scoring of the game came with 7:07 left as Elliott and Keating hooked up again for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The final scoring drive covered 95 yards in 10 plays and consumed 5:04 off the clock.

SJU had 469 yards total offense, compared to 319 for St. Norbert. The Green Knights were held to 84 yards in the second half. The Johnnies passed for 296 yards and rushed for 173 yards on 36 attempts. St. Norbert was held to 65 yards rushing on 38 attempts and gained 254 yards through the air.

The Johnnies had 24 first downs, compared to 16 for the Green Knights. St. Norbert threw five interceptions, while SJU was hurt by four first half turnovers. Both teams had a multitude of penalties as the Green Knights were flagged for 100 yards on 10 penalties, while the Johnnies were whistled for 65 yards on nine penalties.

Individually for SJU, Elliott had 346 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Elliott caught 12 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, while he rushed the ball five times for 77 yards and one touchdown. On special teams, Elliott returned three kickoffs for 79 yards and two punt returns for 30 yards. Elliott extended his NCAA Division III record by catching a pass in his 44th consecutive game and moved into second place all-time in NCAA Division III history with his 56th career touchdown reception. The 12 catches gave Elliott 312 career catches and moved him into fourth place on the all-divisions NCAA list, past former Mississippi Valley State star Jerry Rice.

Nelson had 188 all-purpose yards as he rushed for 114 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown and caught five passes for 74 yards and one touchdown.

Keating was 24-for-37 passing for 296 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Freshman linebacker Jamie Steffensmeier had 11 total tackles, while senor linebacker Cam McCambridge had 10 total tackles, two interceptions and a tackle for loss. Junior linebacker Paul Gans also had two interceptions.

Individually for St. Norbert, sophomore tight end Seth Schussler caught six passes for 158 yards, with 146 of those yards coming in the first half.

Wren carried the ball 19 times for 71 yards and one touchdown.

Senior quarterback Ryan Hartman was 20-for-33 passing for 254 yards and five interceptions. Senior Joe Masciopinto returned six kickoffs for 108 yards.

Senior linebacker Ben Creamer had 10 total tackles and a fumble recovery, while junior defensive back Casey Rentmeester had nine total tackles, two tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and a forced fumble.

SJU improves to 11-0 overall, while St. Norbert ends the season 11-1 overall. SJU is making its 15th overall and ninth NCAA playoff appearance in the last 11 years. SJU now has a 27-13 record in NCAA playoff games. The Green Knights are 1-5 all-time in five NCAA playoff appearances. The Johnnies lead the all-time series with the Green Knights 3-2 and have won both NCAA playoff meetings.

SJU has now won 20 straight games played at Clemens Stadium. In its last 97 games at Clemens Stadium, dating back to 1987, SJU has a record of 87-9-1.

SJU head coach John Gagliardi, in his 55th season and his 51st in Collegeville, extended his all-time collegiate record of 411 career wins.

SJU will host Linfield on Saturday, Dec. 6, in the quarterfinal round of the this year's NCAA Division III playoffs. Linfield defeated Wartburg 23-20 on Saturday, Nov. 29, in the other second round game in the West Bracket of the NCAA playoffs. The Johnnies defeated the Wildcats 21-14 on Dec. 7, 2002 in the NCAA quarterfinals as John Gagliardi won his 400th career game.

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