ST. PETER – St. Thomas wrapped up its fourth undisputed MIAC football title – and fourth 10-0 regular season – in six years with a 66-9 win over Gustavus Adolphus here on Saturday.
The No. 4-ranked Tommies (8-0 MIAC) broke open a 7-6 game with 24 second-quarter points to pull away for a 31-6 halftime lead. They advance to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years and will learn their first-round opponent at 5 p.m. Sunday. They will host the game at noon Saturday Nov. 21 in O'Shaughnessy Stadium.
St. Thomas scored on 10 of its 11 possessions and had numerous stars on offense against the Gusties (7-3, 5-3 MIAC), starting with junior halfback Jordan Roberts, who rushed for 230 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns. It was his eighth straight game with more than 100 yards on the ground, and he now has 24 rushing touchdowns (plus one receiving) and 1,439 yards for the season.
Senior quarterback John Gould also had a sharp day, completing 13 of 18 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown plus running for two touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jack Gilliland was a favored receiver, catching five balls for 114 yards, and junior Nick Waldvogel's four receptions included a 16-yard touchdown catch. Backup halfback Tucker Trettel had 96 second-half rushing yards.
St. Thomas' defense was stalwart, facing one of the MIAC's best quarterbacks in senior Mitch Hendricks and a Gustavus offense that had averaged 46 points a game. He had early success, completing seven of eight first-quarter passes for 113 yards and a touchdown and set a Gustavus record for career completions (698), but the Tommies clamped down the rest of the game.
Gusties strong at outset
After holding Gustavus on its opening drive, the Tommies took over the ball on their own 3-yard line and grinded out a 97-yard, 12-play scoring drive capped by Gould's six-yard run. Roberts carried the ball on eight of the plays for 64 yards en route to a 183-yard first half.
Gustavus bounced right back behind Hendricks, who hit Matt Boyce for a seven-yard touchdown pass after a 78-yard drive (69 yards by air). The extra point kick failed and the Tommies held a 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
They appeared en route to another touchdown on their ensuing drive, but Roberts was stripped of the ball and the Gusties recovered at their 2-yard-line. They were unable to move the ball, and after a punt St. Thomas needed only five plays to go 81 yards for a rushing touchdown by Roberts from the 4. Tight end Charlie Dowdle, holding for the PAT, tried to run for two points but was stopped.
The Tommies held Gustavus to one first down after the kickoff and marched 68 yards in 12 plays to extend their lead to 20-6 with 2:34 left in the second quarter. Gould picked up his second rushing touchdown, from nine yards.
But St. Thomas was not done scoring in the half. The defense forced a 3-and-out Gustavus punt and Gould needed just 1:23 to move the offense 66 yards for another touchdown – Robertts on the ground from the 4 with 21 seconds left. Dowdle ran in the PAT for two points and a 28-6 lead.
The Gustavus returner lost his handle on the ball after receiving the kickoff, and the Tommies recovered at the 17. Gould scrambled out of bounds with 1 second left in the half, and Paul Graupner kicked a 31-yard field goal and a 31-6 lead at the break.
St. Thomas rolled up a season-high 390 yards in the first half and held Gustavus to 148 yards (130 passing and 18 on the ground in 12 rushes).
Tommies salt away win
Gustavus scored 13 final-minute points last week to stun Concordia, but St. Thomas made sure early in the second half there would be no Gusties rally.
The Tommies scored after the kickoff on Roberts' third rushing touchdown, forced a 3-and-out Gustavus punt and needed only six plays to push their lead to 45-6 on Gould's 16-yard bubble screen touchdown pass to Waldvogel.
Gustavus picked up a 24-yard field goal and St. Thomas answered with a pair of Alex Fenske to Wolfgang Dvorak touchdown passes and a 59-9 lead halfway through the fourth quarter. The scoring receptions covered 45 and 25 yards. The Tommies closed the scoring on a 20-yard Trettel run.
(check back later for updated story with quotes from Coach Glenn Caruso and players)