Wartburg Football Survives Playoff Opener Against St. Thomas, 37-31
Fifth-ranked Wartburg opened the NCAA Division-III football playoffs with a 37-31 victory over No. 20 St. Thomas (Minnesota) in Waverly today (Saturday, November 22, 2014). The Knights advanced to the second-round, thanks to a defensive stop with 30-seconds remaining in the game.
Defensive back Logan Pitz preserved the victory for Wartburg. His interception of a John Gould (Jr., Mendota Heights, Minn.) pass at Wartburg's 22-yard-line ended St. Thomas' final drive and secured the victory on an afternoon filled with offensive fireworks by both teams.
The 37 points scored by the Knights were the most allowed by St. Thomas under Head Coach Glenn Caruso, who just completed his seventh season. That's a span of 86 games.
Wartburg built a 13-0 lead after the first quarter and owned a 20-14 advantage at intermission. The Knights scored on three of their first four possessions in of the opening half.
Wartburg put itself in possession to win the game with 4:30 remaining. Facing a third-and-goal from the St. Thomas 10-yard-line, quarterback Logan Schrader (Jr., Killdeer, Ill.) avoided pressure and hooked up with Will Ebert (Sr., Polk City, Iowa) on a touchdown pass which put the Knights up 37-28. Schrader was sacked on each of the previous two plays after Wartburg drove the Tommies' two-yard-line.
St. Thomas took the ensuing drive and marched 75 yards in nine plays to set up the final frantic seconds. The drive ended on a 28-yard field goal by Paul Graupner (Sr. Minnetonka, Minn.), which pulled the visitors within six points of the lead with :52 remaining.
Needing another score, the Tommies tried an on-side kick and got the recovery at Wartburg's 42. Gould opened the drive with three straight passes, the second of which was completed for three yards. The third attempt was picked off by Pitz at the 22-yard line with :19 remaining.
Schrader ended the game as Wartburg's offensive leader, completing 11 of 21 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown. Receiver Taylor Jacobsmeier (Sr., Wapello, Iowa) had seven receptions for 109 yards and running back Brandon Domeyer (Jr., Manchester, Iowa) rushed 138 yards on 27 carries.
Gould ended the day 20 of 37 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for St. Thomas. His scrambling ability got his offense out of trouble numerous times. The Tommies were a perfect 7-for-7 on 4th-down conversions.
Wartburg (11-0) moves on to play St. John's in the second-round of the playoffs next Saturday. The Johnnies beat St. Scholastica in their playoff opener, 35-7. The game is expected to be at Wartburg.