After a number of close, nail-biting games, the University of Indianapolis football team kept its playoff hopes alive with a 47-24 win over the Saint Joseph’s Pumas on Saturday, Nov. 14, in Rensselaer, Ind. Despite some positive drives in the first and fourth quarters, SJC’s defense allowed UIndy to dominate the game on the ground and in the air.
The victory solidified the Greyhounds’ place in the NCAA DII tournament, and left them undefeated in the Great Lakes Valley Conference this season. For redshirt senior quarterback Connor Barthel, it was the last regular season game in his college football career. He said that the game against the Hounds’ Hoosier rival was particularly meaningful.
“It’s a big win for us,” he said. “They always play hard, especially at their place. It’s always a big win. After last year, the four overtime game, we knew they were going to play hard. To come in here and play as well as we did and finish the game, it feels really good. We want to take that momentum into the playoffs.”
Saint Joseph’s won the toss and opted to start the game with the ball but could not make any progress, resulting in a three and out. The Greyhounds responded with a two-play, 72-yard drive, ending with a 59-yard touchdown rush by redshirt sophomore running back Andrew Walker. The Pumas answered back with a touchdown rush of their own to tie the game at 7-7. Barthel connected with redshirt senior wide receiver Reece Horn in a 7-yard pass to close out the scoring in the first quarter.
The Greyhounds wasted little time in the second quarter, freshman running back Shakir Paschall found the end zone on a 7-yard rush at 9:35, making the score 20-7 after redshirt sophomore kicker Brad Schickel’s failed field goal attempt. UIndy and Saint Joe both found the end zone one more time, and Schickel completed a field goal to advance the score to 30-14 UIndy at the end of the first half.
The third quarter largely was dominated by the Greyhounds as SJC allowed three more UIndy touchdowns, running up the score to 47-14. As Head Football Coach Bob Bartolomeo started to phase out the Greyhound starters in the fourth quarter, the Pumas struck back with two touchdowns, bringing the game within the realm of a possible comeback for SJC. However, UIndy shut them down for the rest of the game, assuring UIndy football a win. Bartolomeo said that SJC’s comeback performance in the final minutes of the game did worry him, despite UIndy’s commanding lead.
“I was still nervous in the fourth quarter [despite our lead],” Bartolomeo said. “We played hard, and to Saint Joe’s credit, they did not quit. Danny [SJC Head Football Coach Daniel Day] has done a great job with this football team, and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”
This 47-24 victory ensured that UIndy’s season is not over. The Hounds, no. 5 seed, will play no. 4 seed Colorado State University-Pueblo in the first round of the NCAA DII tournament, the Greyhounds’ third postseason appearance in the last four years.
New to this postseason is the addition of a seventh playoff team from each of the country’s four regions. This increased the 24-team tournament to a 28-team tournament.
Prior to the announcement of which team the Greyhounds would play, Barthel commented on the team’s victory against Saint Joe and how UIndy would use that in the upcoming postseason game.
“The momentum that we have from here [playing Saint Joe], playing a great team away, is great,” Barthel said. “We are most likely going to be away in the playoffs, playing another great team. We are just going to have to take that same momexntum and execution into the next couple of weeks.”
The Greyhounds will travel to Pueblo, Colo., to compete against the ThunderWolves of Colorado State University-Pueblo on Saturday, Nov. 21, beginning at 2 p.m. ET. The winner of the game will move on to play no. 1 seed Midwestern State University on Nov. 28.