They were hoping to rebound.
They were hoping to finish strong.
They were hoping to finish the season with a positive feeling about where the program is heading.
Unfortunately for the St. John’s football team, there is a difference between hope and reality.
The Red Storm was handed its second disappointing loss in as many weeks on Saturday, falling to the Stags of Fairfield, 44-21, in Connecticut.
“It was another disappointing loss,” St. John’s Head Coach Bob Ricca said. “We were hoping to rebound off last week’s tough loss and respond well against Fairfield, but it just did not happen that way.”
The Stags were firing on all cylinders right from the start, grabbing a 24-0 lead before the Johnnies could even blink.
Fairfield grabbed a 7-0 lead with just over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter on 25-yard run by Rishawd Watson.
After a 32-yard field goal by the Stags’ Philip Gibbs and a 38-yard touchdown pass from Fairfield quarterback Mike Cerchio to Uros Stosic, the Storm’s Matt McGuire fumbled the football and Fairfield returned it to the St. John’s three-yard line.
That set up a three-yard touchdown pass to Mauri Stallings to give the Stags a commanding 24-0 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the half.
“The momentum really turned against us following key turnovers deep in our own territory,” Ricca said. “You cannot turn the ball over in that area of the field and expect to win.”
Cerchio finished the day with 216 yards on 10 of 21 passing, throwing for two scores and running for another.
Stallings tallied a rushing and receiving touchdown on the afternoon as well.
St. John’s trailed, 34-7, at the half, once again a game that appeared headed for embarrassment.
But unlike the Duquesne game, the Storm came out in the second half looking to battle the Stags to the end on both sides of the ball.
Matt Millheiser connected with his two favorite targets for scores in the second half, completing a 24-yard strike to Alicio Metellus and a 20-yard pass to Matt May and the defense held Fairfield to a mere 10 points in the half.
“I was pleased with how the team fought back in the second half and did not just pack it in,” Ricca said. “But in the end it was not how we expected this game to turn out.”
Millheiser had another solid outing, finishing with 237 yards on 16 of 30 passing and three scores.
May continued his tremendous play picking up 139 yards on seven receptions.
In addition, he became the fifth player in St. John’s history to reach 130 receptions for his career.
St. John’s enjoyed another record-setting performance by their defensive captain, Bobby Rosenberg.
Rosenberg became the single-season all-time leading tackler in St. John’s history.
His 15-tackle performance against the Stags gave him 130 tackles in the team’s first nine games to stand atop the all-time list.
Rosenberg entered the game as the third-leading tackler in the nation with 14.38 takedowns per game.
“Bobby is a great kid who works extremely hard in practice and is prepared to play every time he steps on the field,” Ricca said.
The Johnnies will host LaSalle at DaSilva Field on Saturday in the final game of the season at 1 p.m.