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Clutch late plays save Football

Clutch late plays save Football

Junior QB Ronnie Jones ran for a one-yard touchdown and on the next possession threw a 25-yard scoring strike to junior Gabe Green on a 4th-and-8 play in the final 3:00 as No. 7-ranked St. Thomas Football rallied past host Gustavus, 14-13, in Saturday's MIAC game in St. Peter, Minn.

Senior Josh Parks rushed 25 times for 114 tough yards -- including 98 during a rainy second half -- for the Tommies (8-1 overall, 6-1 MIAC). It was Parks' 15th career 100-yard rushing day in three seasons.

The comeback victory secured St. Thomas' 10th consecutive eight-win season and kept its postseason hopes alive.

Coach Glenn Caruso's team, playing without six injured regulars, overcame its poorest offensive start in recent years. The last time St. Thomas was shutout over the first three quarters of an MIAC game was in 2009 at St. John's in an eventual 20-17 overtime loss.

St. Thomas needed some clutch plays in its fourth-quarter comeback. Senior punter Mark Dowdle faced 4th-and 12 at his own 11-yard-line with under 9:00 and UST trailing 13-7. Dowdle took the snap near his own goal line and charged upfield to gain 24 yards as UST kept possession at its own 35.

Jones was sacked later in the drive, but a 15-yard personal foul was called on the Gusties after the play for a late hit. The Tommies drove inside the GAC 30-yard-line but needed to convert on 4th-and-8 at the 25.

Jones, who was just 4-for-15 in passing to this point, threw a strike that Green went up and caught for a touchdown with 2:28 remaining. Tyler Knutson kicked his second PAT kick of the day to give St. Thomas its first lead. Counting the punt fake, that TD capped a 17-play, 87-yard drive and included two third-down conversions and the two fourth-down conversions.

The Gusties quickly marched all the way to the Tommies' 29-yard-line, but an interception by senior LB Adam Brant with 56 seconds left allowed UST to run out the clock.

The Tommies allowed 382 passing yards, including TD throws of 18 and 20 yards in the opening half. But Gustavus' second PAT kick missed to keep the score 13-0, and it stayed the way until the fourth quarter.

St. Thomas stuffed the run all day as Gustavus finished with a minus-27 net yards on 21 carries. UST's 13 tackles-for-loss included four by David Danhauer (two sacks) and two apiece by Matt Mitchell and Blake Weber.

Gustavus (5-4, 4-3) had a four-game win streak halted. Senior QB Michael Veldmann threw 48 times for his 382 yards but was picked off three times, once in the red zone on a tipped ball that Jake LeVahn collected.

It was the second one-point home loss of the season for the five-win Gusties, who fell in week two to UW-Stout in overtime after a blocked PAT kick.

St. Thomas plays next Saturday at Bethel in a battle of 8-1 teams. The winner is expected to receive one of the few at-large berths into the NCAA playoffs.

 

Notes

Jones' game-winning TD pass was just his fifth in his 15 career games, all off the bench.

St. Thomas recorded 10 of its 20 first downs in the fourth quarter, but its 279 yards of offense were a season low.

Brant's game-sealing interception was his fifth career takeaway to go with his five forced fumbles and 35 tackles for loss.

The victory was No. 100 this decade for St. Thomas Football (100-13).

The UST defense has allowed just five second-half touchdowns in its last 10 games datung back to the 2017 playoffs.

The Tommies' three interceptions give them 21 on the season -- by 13 different players -- and helped build a plus-16 turnover margin over opponents.

The Tommie defense has allowed 101 net rushing yards in nine games (11.2 ypg). It led all NCAA teams last year as it allowed just 20 yards a game.

This was the Toms' eighth win in a row in St. Peter and 11th consecutive win in the series.

Senior QB Jacques Perra threw two interceptions, was sacked three times and passed for just 54 yards before being relieved by Jones early in the third quarter.