MENOMONIE (September 9, 2017) - J.Dan Sturgeon made his first start at quarterback for UW-Stout and the game will be a memorable one for the sophomore from Indiana.
Sturgeon shrugged off two interceptions and led the Blue Devils (2-0) by completing 13-of-27 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns, including the eventual game winner to Josh Malone with less than 90 seconds on the clock to give UW-Stout a 25-22 win over fourth ranked St. Thomas Saturday at Don and Nona Williams.
After Sturgeon hit Malone for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:27 left on the clock, the Blue Devil defense still had work to do against the dangerous Tommie (1-1) defense.
After kicker Drew Pearson booted the kickoff into the end zone for a touchback, the Tommies quarterback Jacque Perra found Jackson Hull for an 11-yard play to the St. Thomas 31. But Perra was sacked on the next play for a six yard loss by Jacob Nelson, who was late getting on the field for the play. Nelson barely slowed down when he slipped through the line to trip up Perra.
Perra tossed an incompletion, then almost tossed a ball that would ended the game right there, but his pass slipped through defensive back Michael Stewart's hand.
Jed Schlegel made the biggest play of his collegiate career so far to clinch the unlikely win for Stout when he tipped Parra's attempt to Luke Iverson and the Blue Devil bench started the celebration as coach Clayt Birmingham got the Gatorade shower.
St. Thomas looked like a nationally ranked team the first time they touched the ball. Emmitt Peisert took the opening kickoff 63 yards to the Stout 37, giving the Tommies a short field to start the day. Seven plays later, the Tommies found the end zone when Perra hit Matt Christenson for a 9-yard score.
The Blue Devils answered back immediately. Sturgeon, who did not throw a pass in a game his freshman year, launched a pass to Kevion McDonald and the junior outraced the entire St. Thomas secondary to pay dirt, but the extra point was missed, and St. Thomas held a 7-6 lead.
The Tommies had a chance to put points on the board late in the first period, but a 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Isaiah Hardy, his second blocked field goal of the season.
St. Thomas scored to open the second period, driving 80 yards in 11 plays as Jordan Roberts carried the ball in from seven yards out and St. Thomas held a 14-6 lead.
The Blue Devils got within scoring range, but came up empty on a missed field goal.
Stout would take advantage of a St. Thomas miscue when junior safety Levi Wolf stepped in front of a Perra pass and returned it 32 yards to the Tommies' 3-yard line. Wolf would later intercept a pass just before halftime. One play later, Sturgeon connected with McDonald for the second time of the game for a three yard score. The Blue Devils tied the score on two-point conversion and the game would go into halftime tied at 14-14.
St. Thomas sacked Sturgeon in the end zone on Stout's first drive of the second half to take a 16-14 lead and the Tommies would convert the free kick into points, driving 77 yards on 11 plays. Perra would finish off the drive with a six yard rush.
The Blue Devils would make it 22-17 in a 62-yard drive when Pearson hit a 35-yard field. Sturgeon kept the drive alive when he scrambled for a first down on 3rd-and-7. A 15-yard penalty was tacked on when Sturgeon was hit out of bounds well into the St. Thomas bench.
In the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils ground out a 7-minute, 56-second drive, but came up empty on 4th-and-goal. Stout stopped St. Thomas on a three-and-out and Akema Collins returned a low punt 10 yards to the Stout 42.
Rayshawn Graham ran twice for four yards and then Sturgeon found his top target of the day, McDonald, for a 20-yard pass play over the middle. Graham rushed the ball six yards to the St. Thomas 12 and Sturgeon his Malone on the next play for the one point lead. Stout elected to go for two points and Sturgeon found Collins in the end zone for what would be the final score on the afternoon.
The Tommies finished with 315 yards of total offense, 215 passing and 100 on the ground, while the Blue Devils finished with 313 total yards, 263 passing, 50 by rush.
Perra completed 21-of-41 passes for 215 yards, with two interceptions. He also ran for a score. Tanner Vik hauled in five passes for 67 yards. Roberts carried the ball 16 times for 46 yards, while Steve Harrell carried eight times for 44 yards.
Sturgeon threw for 248 yards, and looked cool in the pocket while facing the Tommie rush. He threw for TD passes in the first quarter, second quarter and final quarter.
McDonald led all receivers with a career-best 133 yards on seven grabs. His two TDs match a career-best. Brian Sandifer had two receptions for 64 yards.
Graham led the Blue Devils on the ground, rushing for 50 yards on 17 touches.
Michael Pierson had nine tackles, six solo, to lead Stout. Wolf finished with seven tackles, four solo, and the two interceptions. Josh Johnson had a pair of sacks, along with a fumble recovery, and Iyen Ogbomoh and Jacob Nelson each had a sack.
Stout is off now until Sept. 30 when they open the WIAC season at UW-Platteville.