For much of the season the St. John’s Johnnies defense has been one that bent but didn’t break. They were gladly willing to give up yards, but once opponents were deep in their territory, their defenders forced takeaways and turnovers on downs, and made sacks to end drives. This led them to giving up over 360 yards a game on average, ranked in the bottom half of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), but allowing just 16.5 points per game. Saturday that defense took to the field, but this time they came with a different focus. Not only were they not going to break, they were going to stamp out drives before they got started.
The Johnnies allowed just 13 first downs and held the Carleton Knights to 183 yards of total offense. Carleton converted just five of 18 third-downs and gained only 70 yards through the air. The Johnnies defense also added four sacks and a fumble recovery in a 52-3 thrashing of Carleton. It was St. John’s most dominating defensive effort of the season.
While the defense was holding the Knights at bay, the offense was putting up their own dominating numbers. St. John’s had 274 yards on the ground and 418 total yards of offense on the day. The team had just eight third downs and scored on eight of their 13 possessions. It was an effort that Johnnies fans have come to expect from their offense.
In the Johnnies first two possessions it took just nine plays to move 98 total yards and put up two scores. QB Nick Martin had an 11-yard touchdown run to open the scoring on the team’s opening drive, and after recovering a fumble that set the offense up at the 34 of Carleton, Nick Martin scored from four-yards out four plays later to make it 14-0. From that point the rout was on.
The Knights added a field goal and had another field goal attempt that was missed, and both drives took up a combined total of 24 plays and 104 yards, however, the two drives resulted in just three points. Meanwhile the Johnnies would add two more touchdowns and go to the half up 28-3.
In the second half the defense for St. John’s would really clamp down. The Knights had the ball for eight possessions and were forced to punt seven times and lost the ball on downs on the eighth. Six of those drives ended in three-n-outs, and Carleton could not get anything going.
St. John’s offense added three touchdowns in the second half. Martin and star running back Sam Sura were done for the day after one second half series, and the backups kept the team rolling.
Martin needed just five pass attempts, completing four for 45 yards. He also had 23 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Sura finished with 100 yards on 13 carries and two scores. QB Zach Creighton had 70 yards passing for Carleton on an 11-23 day, and also gained 75 yards on the ground on 19 carries.
Carleton is off next weekend, while the Johnnies travel to Augsburg before their showdown against Bethel. That game may decide the MIAC title.
By Robert Pannier