NCAA Division-III Playoffs: St. John’s vs. UW-Platteville
The No. 9 St. John’s University Johnnies take on No. 16 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers in the first round of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. The Pioneers finished 8-2 and earned an at-large berth to the playoffs out of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). The Johnnies also earned an at-large berth, going 9-1 and finishing second in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
How They Got Here:
St. John’s opened up the season by crushing last year’s winner of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, St. Scholastica, 49-7. They then rolled over their next two opponents, scoring at least 40 in each contest, before falling to No. 3 St. Thomas on September 24. From there they simply dominated, never scoring less than 31-points and putting up 62 and 56 in back-to-back Saturdays in October.
The Pioneers started out 3-0 before falling to No. 2 Wisconsin-Whitewater in a very close contest 30-24. They would then roll over their next two opponents before falling to No. 5 Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 22-13. Wisconsin-Platteville finished out the season by absolutely destroying their last three opponents, putting up 174-points in the three contests. Despite the two losses, the Pioneers have proven that they can stand up to the top talent and not flinch.
St. John’s: 43.6 PPG, 231.8 Rushing/Game, 220.8 Passing/Game, 452.6 Yards/Game
UW-Platteville 42.0 PPG, 198.9 Rushing/Game, 297.8 Passing/Game, 496.7 Yards/Game
St. John’s: 10.7 PPG, 60.0 Rushing/Game, 135.6 Passing/Game, 195.6 Yards/Game
UW-Platteville: 17.6 PPG, 115.5 Rushing/Game, 225.2 Passing/Game, 340.7 Yards/Game
Players to Watch
Sam Sura was the Johnnies primary weapon on offense the last three seasons, but he is graduated now. No one really stepped up to take his place and be “the guy,” but this is a talented team with a lot of weapons. Four players rushed for at least 264-yards, led by Dusty Krueger who had 498-yards and 8-TDs. Jackson Erdman is an outstanding talent at the quarterback position, tossing for 1,011-yards with 16-TDs and just 3-interceptions in 98-attempts, but Ben Alvord has proven to be an outstanding backup. He played in nine-games, completed 77 percent of his passes, and threw for 11-touchdowns without an interception. Whichever quarterback is under center, this team will move the ball with great success.
The Johnnies have an incredible secondary led by seniors Garrett Ackerman and Lucas Glomb, who not only excel with their play on the field, but are two of the finest leaders that a team could ask for. Carter Hanson leads the team in tackles and is one of the finest all-around linebackers that you will find. Nathan Brinker is a disruptive force on the line, leading the team with 8.5-sacks.
The Pioneers have an impressive quarterback in senior Tom Kelly, who threw for 2,727-yards and a gaudy 36-touchdowns with just 4-picks. The senior had a 59.1 completion percentage and is as smart with the ball as you could ask for. Sophomore Sean Studer and Wyatt Thompson combined for 1,200-yards rushing and 11-touchdowns and are a great 1-2 punch in the backfield. Kelly is so good because he has two amazing receivers in seniors Quinn Buschbacher and Dan Arnold. Arnold is such an amazing deep threat, making 58-catches for 1,108-yards and 15-touchdowns. Buschbacher led the team with 73-catches and added 8-TDs.
On Defense, UW-Platteville is led by junior Marty McGrall who led the team with 73-tackles and added 2-sacks. Chandler Crary led the team in sacks with 4.5 and he will need to get some pressure on the Johnnies quarterback for the Pioneers to pull this one out.
This is a good matchup of two teams that would easily be 10-0 if they were in virtually any other conference, but even against top-six opponents they proved that they can play with the big boys. This is a great matchup, but it is St. John’s defense that will be the real difference in this contest. It will be a close game at half, but the Johnnies will pull it out in the second half. Take St. John’s, 31-21.
By Robert Pannier