COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – No. 3/5 Saint John's football advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs with a 45-24 win over No. 10/11 Whitworth (Wash.) on Saturday, Nov. 24, in Collegeville.
The Johnnies (12-0 overall) travel to face No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) for a noon kickoff next Saturday, Dec. 1, in Belton, Texas.
Junior quarterback Jackson Erdmann
(Rosemount, Minn.) ended the day 20 of 34 passing for 305 yards and five touchdowns. He has now thrown for 18 touchdowns over his last eight quarters of play.
SJU scored touchdowns on its first three possessions but only led 21-17. That is, until the Johnnies rattled off 24 straight points to seal the win. The game was a bit tense until senior safety Max Jackson
(St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) returned a punt 47 yards to the Whitworth 39-yard line late in the first half. Erdmann connected with senior wide receiver Will Gillach
(Lindstrom, Minn./Chisago Lakes) for a 4-yard touchdown two plays later to start the run and make it 28-17.
The Johnnies rolled to 488 yards on 62 offensive plays in just over 25 minutes of possession. Whitworth (10-1 overall), meanwhile, averaged 4.1 yards on 90 plays and was 10 of 21 on third down.
Whitworth's game plan was to do everything in their power to keep the SJU offense off the field, and it almost worked. The Pirates, however, did not have a defensive answer for Erdmann and the Johnnies. The Pirates' second offensive possession covered 90 yards on 22 plays, but ended on a 20-yard field goal from Cody McDonald. Whitworth held the ball for 21:01 in the first half.
Balanced Receiving Corps
Six different Johnnies caught passes for SJU on the afternoon. Junior wide receiver Andrew VanErp
(Battle Lake, Minn./Ottertail Central) led the way with five receptions for 87 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown with 2:25 left. Gillach caught five passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, while senior tight end Tommy Auger
(St. Cloud, Minn./Cathedral) snagged five passes for 65 yards. Gillach also completed a 27-yard pass to VanErp on the Johnnies' first play from scrimmage in the second half.
2 for Streit
Senior tight end Jared Streit
(Watkins, Minn./Eden Valley-Watkins) caught three passes for 30 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. He capped the Johnnies' opening drive, which covered 73 yards on 11 plays, with a five-yard score and caught a 10-yard touchdown halfway through the second quarter. The two touchdowns enabled Streit to break his tie with Chris Biggins '84 and Mike Ramler '90 for sole possession of third among SJU tight ends with 14 career receiving touchdowns.
Yards from Scrimmage
Senior running back Adam Essler
(New London, Minn./New London-Spicer) totaled 50 yards on nine carries and caught two tosses from Erdmann for 68 yards, including a 43-yard screen pass for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. He is second on the team with 11 touchdowns this season, including six receiving over the last five games.
Strong Running Game
Junior running back Kai Barber
(Minneapolis, Minn./Totino-Grace) led the Johnnies' ground game with 70 yards on eight carries (8.8). He had a 45-yard run negated due to a holding penalty away from the play halfway through the third quarter. In total, SJU rushed for 156 yards on 27 carries (5.8 avg.). Whitworth entered the game with Division III's fourth-best run defense at 59.5 yards per game.
Leif Ericksen was 40 of 60 passing for 311 yards and three touchdowns for the Pirates. He threw an interception in the end zone on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter and was sacked five times. Wide receiver Garrett McKay caught 13 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, including a six-yard score with 24 seconds remaining in the game.
Erdmann in the Record Book
Erdmann is now 196 of 296 passing for 3,032 yards and 45 touchdowns, to only five interceptions (a 199.05 pass-efficiency rating), through 12 games this season. The 45 passing touchdowns are the second-most in an SJU season, one behind Tom Linnemann's '00 school record of 46 in 2000 (15 games). Erdmann is also second, 10 behind Alex Kofoed's '07 school record of 100, in career passing touchdowns.
Gillach now has 64 catches for 1,132 yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. The 1,132 yards are the seventh-most in an SJU season, while the 15 touchdowns are the fourth-most. His 24 career receiving touchdowns are tied with Todd Fultz '90 for eighth in school history. Gillach is also 2 of 2 passing for 106 yards and a touchdown this fall.
Kicking Up the Charts
Senior kicker Zach Barwick
(Littleton, Colo./Dakota Ridge) made six PAT's Saturday, which broke the school record for a season total (70 by Greg Poulin '94 in 1993) with 74 this fall. He also kicked a 22-yard field goal early in the second half, his seventh of the season and 11th of his career.