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John Shipley / Special to The Forum, Published November 09 2013

St. Thomas rallies, takes down Concordia

ST. PAUL – Concordia should have put St. Thomas away when it had the chance. Instead, the Tommies rallied from a 13-point deficit to squash the Cobbers’ chances for a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football title with a 34-20 victory Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

“I thought we were going to rout them,” Cobbers quarterback Griffin Neal said.

Instead, the Tommies scored 21 straight points and never trailed after taking a 14-13 lead on Nick Waldvogel’s 8-yard touchdown run 3 minutes, 6 seconds into the second quarter.

No. 21 Concordia’s loss allowed Bethel (9-0) to clinch the MIAC outright with its 47-0 victory at St. Olaf. But the loss also complicates the Cobbers’ postseason plans.

Concordia (7-2, 5-2 MIAC) remains in the hunt for one of five at-large bids to the NCAA Division III playoffs, but the loss ties the Cobbers with No. 17 St. Thomas (7-2, 5-2) with one regular-season game remaining. The Tommies lost to Mount Union in last season’s national title game, and now hold a head-to-head advantage on the Cobbers.

“This would have been a huge win for us if we could have pulled it out,” said receiver Brandon Zylstra, whose 20-yard touchdown reception from Neal opened the scoring. “As it stands now, it’s kind of up for grabs.”

Neal had a hand in nearly all of Concordia’s offense, running 18 times for 66 yards and two touchdowns, and completing 15 of 31 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown.

Jack Kaiser ran 24 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns for St. Thomas, and quarterback Alex Fenske completed 13 of 25 passes for 214 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Dowdle that put the Tommies up 21-13..

The Cobbers dominated early, taking a 13-0 lead on quarterback Neal’s 29-yard keeper up the middle with 8:10 left in the first quarter.

After scoring on their first possession with an impressive, 85-yard drive – capped by a deft 20-yard pass from Neal to a well-covered Zylstra in the right corner of the end zone – the Cobbers had two chances to make the extra point and missed them both when Benjamin Wagner hit the goal post and, after a penalty on the Tommies, was wide right.

The Cobbers still have hopes for a postseason berth. But Neal said that’s not important right now.

“I’m not sure how that all will work, but we’re not worried about that,” he said. “We know our destiny is not in our own hands, but if we end the season playing well, we’ll keep our heads up.”

Concordia 13 7 0 0–20

St. Thomas 14 13 7 0–34

CC–Zylstra 20 pass from Neal (kick blocked)

CC–Neal 30 run (Wagner kick)

ST–Kaiser 3 run (Graupner kick)

ST–Waldvogel 8 run (Graupner kick)

ST–Dowdle 20 pass from Fenske (Graupner kick)

CC–Neal 1 run (Wagner kick)

ST–Kaiser 6 run (kick blocked)

ST–Kaiser 6 run (Graupner kick)

TEAM STATISTICS CC ST

First downs 19 26

Rushes-yards 30-105 43-233

Passing 188 225

Comp-Att-Int 15-31-1 14-26-1 Punts-Avg. 6-38.8 2-19.0

Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-2

Penalties-Yards 3-25 6-44

Time of possession 26:51 33:09

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: CC, Neal 18-66, McLean 3-11, Southwick 2-9, Gauldin 4-9, Peterson 1-6, Fraboni 2-4. ST, Kaiser 24-134, Waldvogel 15-100, Truoccolo 1-1, Fenske 3-(-2).

PASSING: CC, Neal 15-31-1 188 yards. ST, Fenske 14-26-1 225.

RECEIVING: CC, Zylstra 3-69, Whiting 4-44, Peterson 5-43, McLean 1-15, Baune 1-11, Gauldin 1-6. ST, Ferrazzo 7-85, Dowdle 3-79, Waldvogel 2-37, Misiewicz 1-16, Kaiser 1-8.