Erdmann Leads Johnnies Past Gusties, 33-21
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – No. 4 Saint John’s football rolled up 459 yards of offense and the defense forced three turnovers, which the Johnnies turned into 13 points, in a 33-21 win over Gustavus Adolphus in the conference opener Sept. 21 in Collegeville.
The game entered a 46-minute lightning delay after Gustavus (2-1, 0-1 MIAC) made its extra-point attempt to cut the Johnnies’ lead to 27-21 with 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Jackson Erdmann (Rosemount, Minn.) completed passes to nine different receivers for SJU (2-0, 1-0 MIAC) and finished 24 of 35 passing for 335 yards and four touchdowns. The 300-yard passing game was the fifth for Erdmann, who is now two passing touchdowns away from the school record of 100 held by Alex Kofoed (2004-07).
Three With Firsts
Three Johnnies caught their first collegiate touchdowns on the afternoon. Sophomore wide receiver Ravi Alston (Lake Elsinore, Calif./Vista Murrieta) gave SJU a 7-0 lead on a five-yard touchdown grab with 5:29 left in the first quarter. Junior tight end Tyler Johnson (Willmar, Minn.) made his first collegiate catch count, from two yards out, to give the Johnnies a 21-14 lead with 3:04 remaining in the first half. Senior tight end Jack Kemper (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) ended the scoring, and gave the home team some insurance, with an 11-yard touchdown reception halfway through the fourth quarter.
Second-Half Scoring Drives
The Johnnies’ two offensive scoring drives were each two plays or less. Erdmann connected with sophomore wide receiver T.J. Hodge (Miami, Fla./Doral Academy) for a 46-yard yard catch-and-run to start SJU’s third possession of the second half and sophomore running back Henry Trost (Lindstrom, Minn./Chisago Lakes) took it over from four yards out on the ensuing play.
Junior linebacker Danny Pietruszewski (South St. Paul, Minn.) recorded a strip sack of Gustavus’ Michael Veldman on third-and-eight and senior defensive tackle Kyle Borgeson (Rochester, Minn./Lourdes) recovered the fumble on the GAC 11-yard line with 7:27 remaining. Erdmann hit Kemper for the 11-yard touchdown connection on the very next play.
Seven More Sacks
The SJU defense matched its sack total from the season opener, seven, and added three other tackles for loss en route to -40 rushing yards allowed on the day. Pietruszewski led the Johnnies with three tackles for a loss to bring his two-game total to six, while Borgeson and senior linebacker James Inman (Bismarck, N.D./Shiloh Christian) tallied 1.5 sacks apiece.
Three More Takeaways
The Johnnies also recorded three more takeaways. In addition to Pietruszewski’s key strip sack in the fourth quarter, SJU intercepted Veldman twice. Sophomore safety John Kohler (Birchwood, Wis./Rice Lake) posted his first collegiate interception on GAC’s opening drive, which led to Alston’s touchdown reception eight plays later.
SJU’s other starting safety, senior Ryan LaCasse (Mountlake Terrace, Wash.), preserved a 21-14 halftime lead with his second interception of the season on the final play of the first half. LaCasse was ejected from the game for targeting late in the third quarter and will miss the first half of SJU’s next game, pending official review.
Gustie Air Attack
Veldman ended the day 33 of 48 passing for 395 yards, three touchdowns and the two interceptions. Three Gusties combined for 25 of his 33 completions: Brayton Finch (9 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown), Brice Panning (8 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns) and Josh Kirk (8 catches for 62 yards).
The Gusties kept the game close in the first half thanks to a 6-for-6 showing on third down. Four of the six conversions were third-and-seven or longer. A personal foul following a nine-yard sack by Borgeson on third-and-10 negated another.
Hodge for a Hundred
Hodge recorded the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, 113 yards on six receptions, in the victory. A play he wishes he had back, however, was an eight-yard gain on second-and-goal with 9:30 left in regulation. He fumbled as he stretched the ball toward the goal line and the Gusties recovered in the end zone for a touchback. SJU’s defense came through, however, with Pietruszewski’s strip sack four plays later.
Kai for a Thousand
Senior running back Kai Barber (Minneapolis, Minn./Totino-Grace) led the Johnnies’ ground game with 69 yards on 13 attempts, including seven consecutive carries for 45 yards as SJU melted the clock on the game’s final possession. The 69 rushing yards enabled Barber to become the 33rd Johnnie in school history to reach 1,000 for a career (1,004 yards on 182 carries).
Points Off the Scoreboard
For the second consecutive game, SJU failed on a field-goal attempt and was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
MIAC-Opening Success Continues
The Johnnies are now 67-24-7 (.719) all-time in their first MIAC game of the season, including a 32-10-4 (.739) record in Collegeville and a 5-3 record against Gustavus (3-0 in Collegeville and 2-3 in St. Peter). It took SJU until its 11th season in the MIAC to win its first conference game of the season, a 7-0 home shutout of Hamline on Oct. 3, 1931. SJU was 0-6-4 in its first 10 conference openers and is 67-18-3 (.778) since.
SJU travels to face Carleton (2-1, 0-1 MIAC) for a 1 p.m. kickoff next Saturday, Sept. 28, at Laird Stadium in Northfield.
By St. John’s Football Staff
Featured Image Courtesy of Libby Auger