Aurora Falls to Saint John's in High-Scoring NCAA First-Round Contest

Aurora fell to Saint John's (Minn.), 51-47, Saturday in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Football Championship.
Aurora fell to Saint John's (Minn.), 51-47, Saturday in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Football Championship.

Portions courtesy of Aurora University athletics communications

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (naccsports.org) --- Aurora University was unable to hold off a late charge by Saint John's University Saturday and fell by a 51-47 score in a 2019 NCAA Division III Football Championship first-round game at Clemens Stadium.

The Spartans (9-2) led the majority of the game, including a 47-38 edge midway through the final quarter, but the eighth-ranked Johnnies (10-1) responded with a pair of touchdowns down the stretch to take the victory.

Spartan quarterback Gavin Zimbelman finished the day 39 of 58 through the air for 432 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for a team-high 59 yards on 11 carries with another touchdown. Colton Jewell tied for game-high honors with 12 catches for 146 yards, while Jacolby Maxwell had eight catches for 131 yards and two scores.

Zimbelman finished his record-setting years with new NACC single-season records for yards (3,614) and touchdown passes (57).

The Aurora University Spartan football team battled valiantly in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Football Championship playoff at #8 Saint John's University. The Spartans took their high-powered offense to the Johnnies but fell just shy of victory, falling 51-47. 

THE BASICS
FINAL SCORE:  #8 Saint John's University 51, Aurora University 47
LOCATION: Collegeville, Minnesota - Clemens Stadium
RECORDS: Aurora University 9-2 overall; #8 Saint John's University 10-1 overall
ATTENDANCE: 2,182
GAME TIME: 3:02
Complete Box Score - View Here

HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Spartans won the toss and deferred to the second half.
- After kicking to the Johnnies, the Spartan defense stood strong, forcing a three and out.
- On the third play of the AU drive, Gavin Zimbelman scrambled and scampered 58 yards down the far sideline for a touchdown and AU led 7-0.
- Saint John's answered with a drive of their own and midway through the first quarter, the game was tied 7-7.
- The teams traded possessions before the Spartans offense went back to work. 10 plays and 90 yards over 4:24 found Zimbelman find Jacolby Maxwell from 11-yards out and AU led 14-7.
- On the first drive of the second quarter, SJU tied the game up again at 14-14.
- The AU offense was running on all cylinders though as they marched 73 yards in nine plays with Zimbelman connecting with Matt Evert on a one-yard strike. The Spartans led 21-14.
- The Spartan defense held on the following Johnnies drive to get the offense the ball back.
- On the 10th play of the drive and a 4th and 9 from the 29, Zimbelman found Maxwell again in the back of the end zone and AU led 28-14.
- Just before the halftime break, Saint John's managed to score to pull the AU lead to seven at 28-21.
- AU took the opening kick of the second half, got another long return from Jhequay Chretin and a penalty to start on the plus side of the field. Two plays and completions to Maxwell for 43 yards and Jackson Howarth for a six-yard score, AU led 34-21 following a blocked pat.
- Saint John's would score on their next two offensive drives as AU punted for the first time on the day.
- With 7:40 left in the third, AU trailed for the first time, 35-34.
- Just before the third quarter ended, AU regained the lead. An 8 play 48-yard drive finished with Zimbelman connecting with Emilio Starks from seven yards out. A failed two-point attempt saw the Spartans lead 40-35.
- As the game headed to the fourth, the Spartan defense came up big inside the red zone, holding on a first and goal to go, keeping SJU to a field goal.
- The Spartan offense continued to gobble up yards and scores. The eighth play of the next drive saw Zimbelman throw his sixth touchdown of the day, this one to Brock Harner from nine yards out. Following the pat, AU led 47-38.
- Saint John's answered with a scoring drive and with 5:42 left in the game, AU led 47-45.
- The Spartans had to punt for just the second time on the day on the next drive, giving SJU the ball with 5:17 left.
- Saint John's ran off 3:28 of the game clock while scoring to take a 51-47 lead.
- The Spartans were not done though as Zimbelman and the AU offense drove the field. 
- A third and long play with Zimbelman throwing to Colton Jewell and Jewell shoveled the lateral to Emilio Starks but the exchange brought Starks down forcing a fourth down as the clock continued to run.
- On the fourth down play, Zimbelman was pressured but managed to scramble to extend the play and found Jewell with his 12th catch of the day but time expired on the Spartans rally.
- Despite the 51-47 final score, the Spartans were valiant against a top-ranked opponent
 
FOR THE SPARTANS                                                     
Zimbelman was 39-of-58 passing for 432 yards and six touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 59 yards and one touchdown.
Maxwell caught eight passes for 131 yards and two touchdown receptions. 
Jewell had 12 catches for 146 yards.
Hudson Stedman had 10 tackles.
Frankie Gordey had eight tackles and 2.5 sacks.
- Eight Spartans caught at least one pass.

SPARTAN STAT LEADERS
Rushing:
 - Carries: Gavin Zimbelman (11) and Tyran Bailey (7)
 - Yards: Gavin Zimbelman (59)
- Touchdowns: Gavin Zimbelman (1)
Passing:
Gavin Zimbelman (39-of-58 for 432 yards and six touchdowns and two interceptions)
Receiving:
 - Catches: Colton Jewell (12) and Jacolby Maxwell (8)
 - Yards:  Colton Jewell (146) and Jacolby Maxwell (131)
 - Touchdowns: Jacolby Maxwell (2)
Defense:
- Tackles: Hudson Stedman (10)
- Sacks: Frankie Gordey (2.5)
 
UP NEXT:

The Spartans conclude the 2019 season with a school record-tying nine wins and a 9-2 overall record, the program's fifth NCAA playoff appearance and seventh conference championship with a perfect 7-0 record in winning the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.