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Turnovers, pass defense hurt Football in first loss

Liam Doyle photo
Liam Doyle photo

St. John's QB Jackson Erdmann threw for 470 yards, 292 in the first half, and the No. 8-ranked Johnnies recorded seven takeaways Saturday en route to a 40-20 home defeat of No. 3-ranked St. Thomas in MIAC football in Collegeville.

Receiver Will Gillach caught 14 passes for 256 yards and two TDs as the Johnnies (6-0 overall, 5-0 MIAC) ended the Toms' 31-game conference unbeaten streak.

The winners also snapped a four-game losing streak in the series and also ended a four-game series losing streak on their home field in Collegeville.

Despite outplaying the Tommies in the second and third quarters, St. John's nearly saw its 33-20 lead shrink to single digits with 11:00 left. UST had a first-and-goal at the SJU one-yard line. But a Josh Parks fumble was returned 99 yards for a TD by Max Jackson to balloon the score to 40-20.

The Tommies (5-1, 3-1) actually outgained St. John's in total offense 610-537 yards on a day when each quarterback passed 53 times. Both teams missed coverting multiple red-zone scoring chances or the 60 total points would have pushed 80. 

Parks had TD runs of 92 and 60 yards and rushed 22 times for 256 yards in the defeat. He improved on his MIAC season average of 10.7 yards per rush to start the game. Parks' three TDs now give him 35 in his three-season career.

The Toms came into the game leading all NCAA teams in turnover margin at plus 2.80 per contest. But the Johnnie takeaways and a parade of UST defensive mistakes made for a long afternoon for the Tommies. SJU converted 9-of-17 on third downs to keep the Toms on their heels.

Tommie tight end Grant Slavik had a career day with 145 yards on six receptions. Senior LB Adam Brant had 10 tackles and one fumble recovery. Perra passed for a season-best 339 yards. St. Thomas also blocked one field goal and two PATs and had three sacks.

St. Thomas is home Oct. 20 to face Carleton and now likely must win its last four games to stay in prime playoff contention.