Sam Sura, Defense Power Johnnies to 27-8 Win in Season Opener
St. John’s had a great defensive scheme to shut down the Wisconsin-River Falls Falcons, and that plan was run to perfection. The Johnnies controlled the line of scrimmage with a pounding ground attack led by Sam Sura, and stifled the Falcons offense with a pressure defense that allowed only six first downs on their way to the 27-8 victory.
The Johnnies scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, and got the scoring going early when they took their opening possession, and drove the ball 75 yards for the score. Sam Sura capped the scoring drive on a third and 15 play when he broke a key tackle on his way for a 39-yard scamper and the 7-0 lead. An intercepted pass later in the quarter put the Johnnies in prime position to score again, as they began their drive at the Falcons 30. Ten plays later Sura scored again on a one-yard burst to make it 14-0.
In the second quarter the Johnnies added to their lead on a 35-yard field goal by Alexi Johnson with 5:35 left in the half. The most emphatic drive of the game came just before the half ended however. With 2:50 left to go, the Johnnies got the ball at their own 36-yard line. The first two plays yielded no gain, but then Sura took over. His next run was a spectacular 17-yard jaunt that gave the Johnnies a first down in Falcons’ territory. After an incomplete pass, he had runs of 8 and 3 yards, gaining another first down to the UWRF 36-yard line. The drive looked like it was going to stall when St. John’s needed nine yards on a third down play, but Nick Martin found Alex Kreuser open for a 20 yard pickup down to the UWRF 7-yard line. From there Sura took the ball and scored up the gut for the 7-yard touchdown, and a 24-0 score.
In the third quarter the Johnnies added to the lead on their second possession of the half, when Johnson hit his second field goal of the game, this time a 26-yarder. Antoine Taylor and Sura were the big stars of the drive, combining for 40 yards on nine carries.
In the fourth quarter the Falcons finally got on the scoreboard. Ryan Kusilek hit Charles Dixon for an 88-yard catch and run for a touchdown. UWRF went for two and was successful, cutting the deficit to 27-8, but they would come no closer.
Despite the long pass play, the St. John’s defense was just stifling all game. The Johnnies held the Falcons to just 246-yards of total offense, including just 80 on the ground. They also forced four turnovers, including three interceptions. Linebacker Ryan Michaelis had a big game for the defense, recording a sack and recovering a fumble for the Johnnies. Derek Tarter had two sacks in a losing effort for UWRF.
On offense, Sura was the big star for St. John’s, rushing for 168 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns, while also leading the team with three catches for 25 yards. Taylor added 68 yards of his own on 13 carries.
It was an impressive start to the season for the Johnnies, who travel to Wisconsin-Eau Claire next Saturday. With the way their defense played, they have to feel pretty good about their chances this season.
By Robert Pannier
Associate Senior Managing Editor
Senior Writer Covering the MIAC