WHEATON, ILL. – St. John's survived some wild final moments to make it back to the NCAA Division III semifinals for the first time since its last national championship in 2003.
The Johnnies withstood a Wheaton touchdown in the final 10 seconds and two potential tying point-after attempts from 35 yards to hold on for a 34-33 victory in the D-III quarterfinals Saturday.
"An incredible game," St. John's coach Gary Fasching told WCCO radio. "We were up 21-7 at half and played real well in the first half. We had trouble stopping them in the second half. … We found a way to get it done."
Jackson Erdmann's 27-yard TD pass to Jack Kemper — his fifth TD pass of the game — and the PAT gave the Johnnies (12-1) a 34-27 lead with 6 minutes, 7 seconds remaining
The Thunder (12-1) drove 67 yards on 14 plays and scored on a 1-yard run by center Jake Hibben to pull within a point with nine seconds left. However, after scoring Hibben spiked the ball — which is not allowed in college. Hibben was given an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, and the tying point-after attempt was moved back 15 yards.
Griffin Bowes missed the ensuing 35-yard PAT attempt, but offsetting penalties were called on both teams — the Johnnies were called for roughing the kicker for colliding with Bowes, but Wheaton had 12 men on the field.
Bowes then missed the PAT again. The Johnnies' Kai Barber secured the ensuing onside kick.
"The penalties and stuff, it was just madness," Erdmann said during a postgame press conference.
Wheaton tied the score 21-21 in the third quarter before the teams traded touchdowns in the fourth. Blake Patrick caught a 54-yard TD pass to put St. John's up 27-21, but the PAT was blocked. Luke Anthony then scored for Wheaton, but the Thunder failed on a two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score tied.
Erdmann completed 27 of 38 passes for 407 yards. Ravi Alston and Patrick each caught two TD passes for the Johnnies, who lost 12 yards on 12 carries.
St. John's plays Wisconsin-Whitewater on Saturday after the Warhawks beat defending national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor 26-7. The time and location of that game will be announced Sunday.
Here's the postgame St. John's press conference: