O'Connell, St. Thomas
Clear Lake, Wis. / Clear Lake
St. Thomas locked up its third-straight MIAC championship with a big 21-7 win on the road against a tough, 16th-ranked Concordia team. Tommie quarterback Matt O'Connell (Clear Lake, Wis.) was the driving offensive force behind UST's latest victory, with 297 yards of total offense and a pair of touchdown tosses against a Cobber defense that hadn't yielded much to their opponents all season. For his big performance, O'Connell was named the MIAC Football Offensive Player-of-the-Week.
O'Connell had an effective day throwing the ball, going 11-for-18 in the passing game (61.1 percent) for 217 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The sophomore also did some damage on the ground, running 15 times for 80 yards - a 5.3 average. St. Thomas nearly rolled up 400 total yards (397), was 5-for-11 on third-down conversions and went 3-for-3 in the red zone under O'Connell's direction. This season, he ranks third in the MIAC in passing yards per game (217.0) and fifth in rushing (70.2 yards per game), and is now 8-0 in his first season as the starter.
With the win, St. Thomas improved to 9-0 overall and 8-0 in the MIAC. Since St. Thomas handed the Cobbers their second loss and St. Olaf upset Bethel Saturday, the Tommies clinched their third-straight MIAC regular season title. Still ranked No. 3 in Division III, UST has now won 33 consecutive regular season games, and Saturday they host the 7-2 Oles to try to close out an unprecedented third-straight 10-0 regular season. Kickoff is set for 1:10 p.m. in St. Paul, Minn.
MIAC Football Defensive Player-of-the-Week
Anoka, Minn. / Anoka
Bethel's conference-championship homes came to an end Saturday as the Royals were upset, 24-17, by St. Olaf. However, linebacker Seth Mathis (Anoka, Minn.) had a huge day in defeat to lead the Bethel defense. The junior racked up double-digit tackle totals, while also breaking up a pass and turning an interception into a Royals' defensive touchdown. For his contributions, Mathis was named the MIAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week for the second time this season.
Mathis made three solo tackles and assisted on 11 other stops to finish with 14 total tackles Saturday. He also broke up a pass, and delivered one of the game's biggest plays early in the second quarter when he picked off a pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. The Bethel linebacker has been one of the MIAC's top playmakers all season, ranking third in total tackles (98), tied for second in forced fumbles (three), tied for third in interceptions (four) and tied for sixth with five pass breakups.
The Royals - now ranked No. 25 in Division III - fell to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the MIAC with the loss. Bethel is now in a three-way tie with No. 23 Concordia and St. Olaf for second place, and the Royals can lock up a share of second in a big final game Saturday at home. The Royals host Saint John's in Arden Hills, Minn., at 1 p.m. to close the 2012 regular season.
MIAC Football Special Teams Player-of-the-Week
Mattson, Saint John's
Eau Claire, Wis. / Memorial
Saint John's enjoyed one of its best performances of the season in Saturday's convincing 55-10 win over Hamline in St. Paul, thanks in part to an excellent day in the kicking game. Senior Jimmie Mattson (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial) continued his outstanding senior season by kicking all nine of his attempts - seven PATs and two field goals - through the uprights and scoring touchbacks on nearly all of his kickoffs to help the Johnnies in the field-position battle with the Pipers. For his perfect kicking performance, Mattson was named the MIAC Football Special Teams Player-of-the-Week for the second time this season, and fifth time in his career.
Mattson was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra points Saturday, and also drilled both of his field goal attempts on Saturday. The first was a 20-yard kick as time expired to end the first half, and the second was a 32-yard field goal to open the second-half scoring and boost SJU's lead to 27-3. He also averaged 64.1 yards on nine kickoffs, with seven going for touchbacks. This season, Mattson is the leading scorer among MIAC kickers with 60 points, coming on six field goals and a perfect 42-for-42 season thus far on PATs. He has 31 touchbacks and an average of 63.2 yards per kick on 52 kickoffs in 2012.
With the win, the Johnnies have now won three games in a row and are over .500 overall. SJU is now 5-4 overall and 3-4 in the MIAC, and can finish .500 in conference play if it can end its season with a big upset of No. 25-ranked Bethel. The Johnnies will close their 2012 campaign Saturday when they take on the Royals in Arden Hills at 1 p.m.