Some wins are pretty. Others are less so.
For the St. John’s football team, Saturday afternoon’s 23-13 victory over Carleton at a chilly Laird Stadium probably fell into the latter category.
The Johnnies turned the ball over four times and were penalized eight times for 63 yards. They even fell behind by three points early in the second half.
But in the end, they got the job done, improving to 6-1 and staying within striking distance of Bethel in the MIAC standings heading into a much-needed bye week next week.
“I think we’re all looking forward to the bye week,” said wide receiver Josh Bungum, who had seven catches for 52 yards Saturday, bringing his career total to 101 receptions in just his second season in Collegeville.
“We’re kind of banged-up right now. And we weren’t real crisp today. But now we have two weeks to rest up and sharpen some things before we play Gustavus.”
That game – against a much-improved Gusties squad – takes place Nov. 2 in St. Peter.
By that time, the team is hoping leading rusher Sam Sura, who missed Saturday’s game after spraining his right lateral collateral ligament in a win over Augsburg last week, and senior quarterback Connor Bruns, who sat out against the Knights with a foot injury, will both be ready to return.
And a number of other players who are battling various bumps and bruises now have a couple of weeks to heal up.
“The bye week is always huge,” said defensive end Matt Workman, who had two of his team’s four sacks Saturday. “It seems like we’ve had a bunch of injuries lately and hopefully we can get some guys healed up.”
The Johnnies plan to watch film as usual Monday and practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Though head coach Gary Fasching said the team will probably take next Friday and the weekend off.
“It’s going to be really important,” Fasching said of next week’s break in the schedule. “We’ve been pushing these guys pretty hard and they can use a little time to recharge.”
But before that period of rechargement begins, let’s take one last look at Saturday’s win over the Knights by delving a bit deeper behind the numbers:
That was how many times the Johnnies offense got inside the Carleton 30 Saturday without scoring any points. One of those times is misleading because it came at the end of the game when St. John’s simply let the clock run out at the Knights’ 16.
But the Johnnies reached the Carleton 27 on their second drive of the game before Nick Martin – who started in place of Bruns – had a pass picked off by Alex Pope at the 12.
Then, with the ball at the Knights’ 8 in the second quarter, Dylan Saline picked off a pass at the goal line and returned it all the way to the Carleton 43.
Of course, safety Darryl Williams intercepted a pass by Carleton quarterback Conor Lynch on the very next play to nullify that turnover.
But a pair of false start penalties on the ensuing St. John’s possession helped slow a drive that ended with a punt from the Knights’ 39.
“It just came down to execution,” said Martin, whose team was ranked No. 25 in the latest D3football.com Division III poll. “We ended up leaving a lot of points on the field in the first half and that was on me.”
It wasn’t really all on him. But Martin did have an up-and-down game in his first start since a season-opening victory at Wisconsin-River Falls on Sept. 6.
That injury brought on Bruns, who has played well enough to keep the job even after Martin was ready to play.
Saturday, though, Martin was back under center. And he finished with 10 carries for 41 yards – including touchdown runs of 12 and 13 yards in the first and third quarters. The Wayzata graduate also was 17 of 28 passing for 167 yards, including a big touchdown pass to junior Rob Voshell in the third quarter.
But there was a fumble on the game’s opening possession and three interceptions.
“I think he may have been a little rusty, especially in the first half,” Fasching said. “His first few passes were a little underthrown. But in the second half – from about midway through the third quarter to the end – Nick really did a nice job of staying within himself and taking control of the game.”
The Johnnies offense did get into gear after Carleton scored on the opening possession of the second half to take a 13-10 lead. Martin connected with Voshell on a 37-yard touchdown pass at the 7:08 mark to put St. John’s back in front 17-13.
Then Martin scored on a 13-yard run at the 3:43 mark to close out the game’s scoring.
“We all just had to calm down and play football,” said running back Jakob Certeza, who finished with 28 carries for 116 yards to lead a Johnnies’ running game that piled up 229 yards on the ground.
“We just started having fun. Our offensive line took control of the game and we seemed to get back into the right mindset.”
Bruns is expected to return to run the offense when St. John’s returns to action in two weeks. And Martin said he understands that decision.
“Connor has been playing well and he’s led us to a bunch of wins,” Martin said. “That’s what counts most. I want the team to do well. It’s always disappointing to lose a spot due to injury. But I support whatever decision is best for the team.
“That’s all up to the coaches. The biggest thing is that we got the win today. I didn’t have my best game. But we came out on top and I’m just going to focus on that.”
That’s how many turnovers the St. John’s defense has recorded this season – two more than they had in all 10 games a year ago.
The Johnnies added three more to that total Saturday, including a couple at big times.
When St. John’s fumbled the ball at its own 24 on the game’s opening possession, sophomore cornerback Trevor Warner picked off a pass in the end zone two plays later.
Then, Saline’s interception return, Williams returned the favor on the very next play.
“Our goal is always to try and get the ball back to our offense,” said Williams, who now leads the team with four interceptions this season. “If we do that, we know they’ll convert. So we’re just trying to stay strong and be the backbone of the team. It’s up to us to get our offense as many opportunities as possible.”
Safety Nolan Lortz also added an interception in the third quarter. And perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game came earlier in the third when Carleton – ahead 13-10 and looking for more – faced 4th-and-5 at the Johnnies’ 30.
But sophomore linebacker Drake Matuska sacked Lynch for a loss of 12 yards giving St. John’s the ball back and setting up the touchdown pass to Voshell just three plays later.
Then, with the Knights facing 4th-and-10 at the Johnnies’ 36 in the fourth quarter, Matuska again sacked Lynch for a loss of 2 ending any threat of Carleton getting back in the game.
“We know everything starts with getting pressure up front,” Workman said. “When we can get a good pass rush going, it helps everything else out.”
That was how many yards the Johnnies limited the Knights to on the ground – including just seven yards total in the first half.
Any damage Carleton did came through the air and largely on two scoring drives – one late in the second quarter that went 73 yards in nine plays and was culminated by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Lynch to Chase Gottschalk.
And the other to start the third quarter that went 78 yards in 10 plays and ended on a 16-yard touchdown connection between Lynch and Gottschalk.
Those two possessions accounted for 151 of the Knights’ 221 yards of total offense.
“They played well,” said linebacker Andrew Rose, who finished with 10 tackles to lead his team. “They completed a few passes up the seam and really started to move the ball. We had some breakdowns. But ultimately, they made some great plays.”
Lynch finished 20 of 41 passing for 221 yards and the two touchdowns. But he also threw the three interceptions and was sacked four times.
Carleton was also penalized eight times for 63 yards.
“We left a lot of points out there,” said Gottschalk, whose team is now 0-31 all-time in games against the Johnnies. “Watching the film is going to be tough.”
Around the MIAC
Elsewhere in the conference today, the big game came in Arden Hills where Bethel – ranked No. 5 in the latest D3football.com poll – overcame a 21-14 deficit to beat No. 9 St. Thomas 21-14. It marked the Tommies’ second loss of the season meaning last season’s Division III national runners-up are now long-shots to make the postseason this year: http://athletics.bethel.edu/news/2013/10/19/FB_1019132743.aspx
* Concordia bounced back after last week’s loss at home to Bethel and beat Hamline 63-7 on the road. The Cobbers improved to 5-1: http://concordiamn.prestosports.com/sports/fball/2013-14/releases/20131019xfs5bg
* Ayrton Scott threw for collegiate personal-bests of 384 yards and five touchdowns as Augsburg rebounded from the loss to the Johnnies last week with a 41-17 home win over struggling St. Olaf: http://athletics.augsburg.edu/news/2013/10/19/fb101913.aspx
* And senior running back Jeffrey Dubose rushed for three touchdowns to break the school career touchdown record as Gustavus improved to 4-2 with a 42-21 nonconference road win at Valley City (N.D.) State: http://athletics.blog.gustavus.edu/2013/10/19/balanced-attack-record-breaking-performance-lead-football-past-valley-city-state-42-21/