Wow. I figured Mount Union and St. Thomas would beat their respective opponents, but I never figured they’d do it so easily. Yet, here we are. Let’s do this thing! If you’re interested, we also recapped Mount Union vs Whitewater for your viewing pleasure.
BR-1 St. Thomas 38, BR-4 Linfield 17
If the Mount Union/Whitewater game was kind of a let down in terms of competitive intensity, than the St. Thomas/Linfield match-up was a total snore fest.
The Tommies scored 20 first quarter points en route to a 23-3 halftime lead and never looked back. The Wildcats, for all their accomplishments this season, looked completely outmatched in a game I expected to go the distance.
Linfield’s top-15 ranked offense mustered just 349 yards against the Tommies vicious defense — and most of that came in garbage time.
Look at it this way: after one quarter, the Wildcats had accrued just 21 offensive yards. Backup QB Tom Knecht, subbing for the injured Sam Riddle, went 14-of-28 for 117 yards and two interceptions after putting up nearly 500 passing yards last week against Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Knecht was spelled by Riddle in the second half. The senior QB logged 173 yards, two touchdowns and one interception; mostly in the fourth quarter when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
On the other side, St. Thomas put up 444 yards of offense despite starting QB John Gould completing just 5-of-11 passes for 55 yards and one interception. Half back Jordan Roberts carried the load — both figuratively and literally — and amassed a stunning 256 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He now has 1,957 rushing yards on the season, which makes him St. Thomas all-time leading rusher (surpassing Gary Trettel’s 1,861 yards set in 1990). He has also scored the most TDs in a season by an MIAC player (34) and lead the country in scoring, according to the St. Thomas website.
Roberts scored on the game’s opening drive, pounding the Wildcats defense for 24 yards and a TD in just over two minutes.
The Tommies defense forced a quick three-and-out, and Roberts and company went to work from their own 34. Roberts, Gould and Jack Kaiser took turns running the ball and scored after a lengthy 12-play, 66-yard drive at the 5:31 mark in the first period — 14-0.
Knecht fumbled on the Wildcats next possession (recovered by Steve Harrell), which resulted in a three-yard rushing touchdown by Kaiser. And just like that, the score was 20-0.
After a Gould interception, Knecht managed to lead the Wildcats on a 59-yard drive that resulted in a field goal to put his team on the board at the start of the second quarter.
St. Thomas kicked a FG at the 1:13 mark to push the lead to 20.
Linfield got the ball back with a minute to go, but Knecht, on his final play of the year, threw an interception. Riddle started the second half, but couldn’t get anything going. Roberts scored again at the 6:28 mark in the second quarter to push the lead to 30-3.
Riddle tossed a TD to cut the lead to 10, then scored again to make it 30-17 at the 6:55 mark in the fourth period. But another Roberts rushing TD on the next drive put an end to any talk of a miracle comeback.
Talks will likely revert to whether Wildcats coach Joseph Smith should have started Riddle to begin with. Hindsight is 20/20, but Knecht had just put together a massive performance one week earlier and as a coach you have to go with the hot hand. Knecht was clearly outmatched, but his offensive woes are likely more attributed to St. Thomas stunning defense than any deficiency on Knecht’s part.
In any case, the Tommies make their second championship appearance in four years. As stated above, the last time they went, the Tommies were ousted 28-10 by Mount Union. Perhaps this year will offer different results.
The two teams will square off on Star Wars day—er—Dec. 18 at 7:05 pm. Not 7:06. 7:05.