The St. John’s Johnnies have a very good defense. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugolds. They will happily attest to the fact. Well, maybe not so happily after watching their team shutdown to 216 yards of total offense and 11 punts. It was a dominant affair that left the Blugolds looking for answers and looking for wins, now that they are 0-2.
UWEC looked like they were going to take the lead early. On their second possession they moved from their 37-yard line to the St. John’s four yard line. There the team gave Jake Neis four attempts to get into the end zone. He didn’t make it. On fourth and goal from the two he was stuffed turning over the ball on downs.
The Johnnies began the drive at their one and, riding RB Sam Sura, the offense not only moved them away from the end zone, but also was gaining huge chunks of yardage. Sura took the ball on the first four drives and carried the ball 60 yards, including a huge 42 yard gain. Eventually they would be stopped at the UWEC 12, opting for the 29-yard field goal that Alexi Johnson drilled.
The Johnnies then got the ball on their next drive at their own 42. Sura broke through the line on the first play of the drive for 30 yards. After Zach Sundly gained 3 yards, Sura refused to go down and willfully carried the ball 25 yards for the touchdown. It was 10-0 just 14 seconds into the second quarter.
Despite staying on the ground, the Johnnies were putting together quick drives, and it was thanks to Sura that they were moving the ball so quickly. On their next possession it looked like it would be a much more methodical drive with the team gaining 10 yards on their first four plays. Then Sura burst down the sidelines for a 47-yard scamper down to the Bluegolds one yard line. From there Antoine Taylor took it to the house for the touchdown and the 17-0 lead.
The Johnnies were moving the ball effectively after that, but were not able to put it into the end zone. Meanwhile the defense for St. John’s was taking care of business, and shutting down UWEC’s attack at every turn. The Blugolds had the ball seven times in the first half, and after moving the ball fairly effective on their first two drives, the Johnnies forced four straight three-and-outs, completely dominating the line-of-scrimmage.
In the third quarter St. John’s added two more touchdowns, and finally Sura was rewarded for all of his hard work in the first half. On their second possession of the second half he carried the ball seven times in the nine play drive and scored on a 16-yard run to make it 24-0. Two possessions late Nick Martin hit Evan Clark for a 28-yard touchdown pass and the rout was on.
With 7:14 left in the game Mark Munger finally put the Blugolds on the board. He completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tye McLaughlin to avert the shutout, but the game was clearly over long before this point.
For the Johnnies they were led by the power running of Sura who carried the ball 32 times for 281 yards and two scores. Of the 70 plays St. John’s offense ran on this day he was involved in nearly 50 percent of them, and the Blugolds had no answer for him.
The win moves the Johnnies to 2-0. They welcome Concordia to town next weekend in a battle of early season undefeated teams.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Writer Covering the MIAC