Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Epic Division III Football Battle Comes Down to Six Inches

One of the best Division III football rivalries ever is played every October between two Catholic universities, St. Thomas and St. John's—an MIAC showdown that usually decides the division champion.

Obviously, this article will be biased, but since the vast majority of you probably didn't see the game, I can spin it any way I want—still, I'll try not to.

The game started out perfectly. A Tommies interception on the Johnnies' own 20 should be an easy six. Apparently not. A 4th-and-long and no sign of the punt unit or field goal team. What came next would have any football fan on their feet.

A triple-reverse left the St. Thomas quarterback wide open in the back of the end zone for a somewhat easy, somewhat stressful six.

I must admit, this is where my mind gets a little fuzzy. Maybe because I was a tad hung over from Friday night, or the fact that I was babysitting a friend who thought it was a good idea to have six shots of Everclear in six minutes. If you were wondering, that's not a good idea at all.

So, basically, I don't remember the rest of the first half, but I do know it involved a pooch punt by the Tommie quarterback, as well as a bunch of unsuccessful draw plays by the Tommies on 3rd-and-forever.

After a botched extra point by the Johnnies, halftime saw the Tommies up, 7-6.

Again, more babysitting by myself and convincing my friend not to puke in the middle of the stands, so we'll fast forward to the end of the third quarter.

The Johnnies scored another touchdown, and this time it was a botched two-point conversion, but it put them up, 12-7.

Again, more unsuccessful draw plays on 3rd-and-forever. Pandemonium ensues as the Tommies go three-and-out after three-and-out.

Then, hope. The Tommies pinned the Johnnies down inside their own 10 with time dwindling in the fourth quarter. It was fourth down, too, so St. Thomas was guaranteed good field position. Then, obviously a call from the sideline, the punter runs out of the back of the end zone untouched for a Tommies safety, 12-9.

The Tommies then mounted a surprisingly successful clutch drive that led them to the St. John's 1-yard line. The first try, I thought they broke the plane (I was standing right on the goal line), but apparently not. They get a bad spot, whatever.

Second down, inside 30 seconds left. The Tommies are inside the 1, but at this point it doesn't matter much. Their second push again appears to cross the goal line by quite a wide margin, but, again, no. The crowd, including me, is going ballistic at this point. It's nuts.

Third down. The running back gets a bad snap, and it's bad news. As the running back jumps up and over the pile, the ball (which he had cradled on his thigh because of the bad snap) pops straight up into the air, Johnnies recover, bad guys win.

So there you have it, and the St. John's reign of terror against St. Thomas continues.

Don't like my take? you can read about the game at Tommie Sports, or on the Star Tribune Website.