Duncan sets school’s new rushing standard

Junior Austin Duncan sets the school’s all-time career rushing record at St. John’s, despite the team’s 49-28 loss in Collegeville.


Paul Patane

Junior Austin Duncan struts on the sideline at St. John’s the day he set Hamline’s rushing record.

Featured junior running back Austin Duncan made history in front of 9,754 spectators at Clemens Stadium in Collegeville, but the Pipers fell to conference powerhouse St. John’s University 49-28 last Saturday afternoon.

Duncan ran the ball 30 times for 135 yards, breaking the long-time Piper rushing record set by Monroe Walker in 1980. Duncan is now the Piper’s all-time leading rusher with 2,952 yards having played in only 24 career games.

Junior quarterback Tim Bona completed 23 of 40 passes for 304 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions as the offense exploded for a total of 473 yards. Bona was forced to scramble much of the afternoon and was sacked twice.

Bona’s top targets were junior tight end Philip Sherman and sophomore wide receiver Naji El-Araby.  Sherman led Piper receivers with 7 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. El-Araby caught 7 passes for 82 yards.

The Piper defense was led by sophomore safety Anthony Hill. Hill led the team with 13 tackles.

The Johnnies overwhelmed the Pipers in the first half by scoring a touchdown on every drive but one. Two of their touchdown drives were completed in under a minute each.

The Pipers had a rough day on special teams as they gave up a total of 197 yards on 5 kickoff returns, including a touchdown return at the end of the first half.

By the end of the first half, the Johnnies had scored all of their 49 points and their offensive line dominated the Pipers defensive front seven. To make matters worse, several tackles were missed on the second level by Piper defenders.

According to junior defensive back Jack Swanberg, improved tackling and getting off the field on third down is a point-of-emphasis for the Piper defense as they look to improve in future games against MIAC opponents.

“We need to improve on our tackling,” Swanberg said.

The Piper’s third down defense against the Johnnies was strong. The unit surrendered only 1 first down on 10 attempts.

“We always stress about third down play,” Swanberg said.

The defense improved in the second half and the Pipers gave up no additional points as the offense rallied for two touchdown drives before lost fumbles put the game away for good.

Senior center and co-captain Alec Grimm is confident in the Piper defense and their abilities.

“The amount of talent they [the defense] have as a group is really impressive.  They’ve gotten a lot of turnovers this season already.  We’ll get into the end zone for them,” Grimm said.

Duncan has also seen improvement in the defense this season.

“The defense has played well. They’ve kept us in games, gotten off the field and did their job,” Duncan said.

Even though the team fell short on Saturday, there was no denying Duncan or his run at history.

“I want to be able to compete in every game and do what I can to help my team win. I try to rush for at least 200 yards a game,” Duncan said.

To improve from his strong sophomore season, Duncan made sure to train hard in the offseason.

“I have a personal trainer back home. I worked [this past summer] on my speed, agility and cone drills,” Duncan said.

Future offensive success for the Pipers against the top tier MIAC opponents will depend on a balanced offensive attack featuring Duncan’s strong play and the chemistry between Bona and his receivers.

“Tim’s taken a strong leadership role and I’m excited to see what he can do the rest of the season,” Grimm said.

Duncan also sees improvement from the quarterback position.

“This whole offseason, Tim put in so much work.  Him putting in that work helps us become more successful,” Duncan said.

Swanberg noticed the growing receiver chemistry in preseason and practice.

“They’re all kind of starting to come together,” Swanberg said.

Duncan echoed similar thoughts about the Piper receivers.

“The wide receivers put in a lot of work this offseason so they could come out and show up on the field,” Duncan said.

Saturday’s performance was just the latest example of St. John’s continued strong play against the Pipers in recent years.  In fact, Hamline has now lost 20 consecutive games to the Johnnies dating back to 1995. The Pipers last won on Oct. 1, 1994 by a score of 27-26.

The Pipers are down but not out as they continue to hunt for their first MIAC victory this season.

“We have the physical ability and talent to stay in more games this year,” Grimm said.

The Pipers look to rebound from their disappointing loss at 1pm this Saturday, Oct. 11 against the Bethel University Royals for Homecoming at Klas Field. The Pipers will play three out of their next four games at home.