Last play, Tommies fall short
Sophomore Paul Graupner's 32-yard field goal attempt as time expired slipped right and visiting St. John's held on to claim a 20-18 MIAC football victory over the No. 2-ranked host Tommies before a stadium record crowd Saturday in St. Paul.
St. John's (3-0 overall, 1-0 MIAC) has won three games this season by a combined eight points.
Rookie head coach Gary Fasching's team ended a three-game losing streak in the series as it capitalized on five UST turnovers in another lively game between the Catholic archrivals, this the 82nd meeting.
The Johnnies scored only six second-half points -- a 27-yard and a 34-yard field goal by freshman Alexi Johnson. The latter came with 14:53 to go and erased an 18-17 UST lead. But they held St. Thomas to one second-half touchdown and its lowest point total in an MIAC game since October 2011.
St. Thomas (2-1 overall, 0-1 MIAC) had its 36-game regular-season and 18-game home field win streaks snapped. The Tommies fell one game short of tying St. John's 28-game conference win streak from 2001-04. It was just the second September loss in six seasons under Coach Glenn Caruso.
The crowd of 10,800 at UST's O'Shaughnessy Stadium on a cool, sunny day eclipsed the 2011 record of 10,420 for that Tommie-Johnnie clash.
The Tommies outgained the Johnnies 380-278 yards and had a 23-13 edge in first downs. But they were unable to capitalize on Nick Waldvogel's 48-yard return of the opening kickoff and Dan Noehring's 61-yard punt return in the fourth quarter, and came away with no points on either drive.
St. Thomas took over at its own 12-yard-line with 2:38 to go. The Toms drove 73 yards in 15 plays -- including a 20-yard desperation reception by Matt Misiewicz on 4th and 7 to the SJU 35 to move the chains. That set up a potential game-winning kick but St. Thomas was unable to secure the victory.
Graupner drilled a 53-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to pull UST within 14-11 at the break. That tied Tony Zajac's 27-year old St. Thomas record for longest field goal.
UST junior QB Matt O'Connell completed 20-of-37 passes for 245 yards but threw his first two interceptions of the season, both in the second half. St. Thomas lost three fumbles in the first half. Two of those set up Johnnie TD drives of 53 and 40 yards.
For the Johnnies, sophomore RB Sam Sura rushed 25 times for 88 yards; soph WR Josh Bungum caught 12 passes for 104 yards; and senior QB Connor Bruns completed 21-of-30 passes for 182 yards and ran for a short TD.