No. 25 St. Thomas remained undefeated in Pioneer Football League play by topping the Valparaiso University football team 34-7 on a blustery and overcast Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. A topsy-turvy first quarter saw the two teams combine for five turnovers including three forced by the Valpo defense, but the Brown & Gold had no points to show for the early takeaways.
How It Happened
- The Valpo defense made a big play right away as Ben Hines (Snohomish, Wash. / Archbishop Murphy [Washington]) came up with an interception on St. Thomas’ second play from scrimmage after the Tommies received the opening kickoff. Valpo took over in the red zone at the St. Thomas 20.
- The Beacons eventually had first-and-goal from the St. Thomas 3-yard line, but then on second-and-goal from the 5, the Tommies came up with a strip sack followed by a 79-yard fumble return for a scoop-and-score touchdown.
- After a Valpo punt, Kohlton Sherman (Millington, Mich. / Millington) made an interception to extinguish a promising St. Thomas drive. His 46-yard return set up the Beacons at the St. Thomas 39. However, the Valpo offense went three-and-out.
- The defense flexed its muscles with a third straight takeaway as Caleb Rao (Liberty Township, Ohio / Lakota West) came up with a fumble recovery at the St. Thomas 17. However, the ensuing Valpo drive saw the Tommies make an interception in the end zone.
- St. Thomas used a six-play, 80-yard drive to double the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter. The two teams exchanged punts on drives that chewed up the bulk of the remaining first-half time and the hosts went into the locker room down two scores.
- St. Thomas used a 50-yard TD pass on its first drive of the second half to up the lead to 20-0. Valpo did respond with a six-play, 75-yard scoring drive that started with a 55-yard reception by Solomon Davis (Brighton, Tenn. / Brighton) on a pass by Michael Appel Jr. (Springboro, Ohio / Springboro). Later, Aaron Dawson (Westbury, N.Y. / W.T. Clarke [Central Connecticut]) plunged into the end zone from a yard out to make it 20-7.
- Valpo appeared to have recovered an onside kick a moment later, but the play was negated by an offside penalty, then the re-kick turned into an 89-yard kickoff return TD to extend the St. Thomas lead back to 20 at 27-7.
- The only remaining scoring by either team was a St. Thomas touchdown with 11:10 left in the fourth on a 3-yard run.
Inside the Game
- This marked the third straight game that Sherman has notched an interception. He now has five in his collegiate career.
- Dawson’s touchdown run was his eighth of the season. He finished with 62 yards on 17 carries, moving his season total to 955 rushing yards, still fifth in program history.
- Davis led the receiving corps with four catches for 84 yards including a long of 55. Appel went 10-of-19 through the air for 130 yards.
- Hines’ interception was his first in a Valpo uniform.
- Jake Birmingham (River Forest, Ill. / Oak Park and River Forest) registered 11 tackles to share the team lead with Hines. Prior to Saturday’s game, Birmingham had four tackles in his collegiate career, all this season. For Hines, this marked his third double-figure tackle game of 2022.
- Valpo forced three turnovers for the second straight game. Prior to last week at Dayton, the team had forced six turnovers in the first seven games this season. Now, the Beacons have doubled their season total in the last two games.
- The Valpo defense has five interceptions in the last two games after totaling just three over the season’s first seven contests.
- St. Thomas converted on eight of its 12 third-down opportunities.
- The biggest bugaboo of the day was sacks as Valpo permitted a season-most eight sacks to the Tommies. St. Thomas had 11 tackles for loss totaling 81 yards.
- This past week, St. Thomas cracked the American Football Coaches Association FCS Top 25 poll for the first time this season as the Tommies arrived at Brown Field ranked No. 25 nationally.
- The 27-point margin of defeat was Valpo’s largest of the season. This was Valpo’s largest margin of defeat in its last 25 Pioneer Football League games, a stat that reflects the program’s progress from the days where lopsided defeats were the norm. In the program’s last 31 games, this was its second largest margin of defeat behind a game against FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.
Click here to view the press conference.
Valpo (4-5, 3-3 PFL) will try to bounce back next week with a trip to Marist for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The game will air on ESPN+. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.