MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There have been many big days in the historic Tommie-Johnnie football rivalry. But when the two schools met again Saturday — this time at Target Field — this might have been the biggest.

It certainly was attendance-wise — 37,355 fans, the largest crowd in Division III football history and more than double the previous record.

“I tell you what, Division III football, man. We’re out here because we love this game,” St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said. “And I think that’s what draws a lot of people. They just want to see guys that love the game and play with passion every single snap, and that’s what we brought today.”

And they watched a terrific game. St. Thomas took a 7-3 lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Jacques Perra to Matt Christenson.

Then they extended it to 14-3 when Perra went deep to Gabe Green for 61 yards. Perra with 230 passing yards and those two scores.

St. John’s cut into the deficit just before halftime, Jackson Erdmann going 31 yards to Jared Streit. St. Thomas kicked a field goal and led 17-10 at half.

After another Tommies field goal, St. John’s drew within three as Erdmann went long to Evan Clark with six minutes to play.

But St. Thomas held them off and won their fourth straight in the series for the first time since the ’50s, 20-17.

“I’m happy we beat our rivals. I’m happy we won a conference game. I’m happy we won at Target Field in the biggest home game in the history of Division III. Pretty awesome,” Caruso said.

“So much work goes into it. We got so many guys, so many pieces, so many struggles that we’ve all dealt with together. So to overcome those obstacles man, it feels – it’s incredible,” running back Tucker Trettel said.

“I told our guys this is something you’ll probably remember for the rest of your life, and they probably don’t realize that until after the game, what they did,” St. John’s coach Gary Fasching said. “But it was a great showcase, I just wish we could’ve come out on top.”

This was one of those games where the statistics really tell the story. St. Thomas had more than twice as many yards, ran almost twice as many plays, had almost twice as much time of possession, including 25 of the final 30 minutes and held St. John’s to 0-for-11 on third down.

But it was this statistic — one rushing yard allowed on 20 carries – that impressed Caruso the most.

“One yard rushing allowed s pretty tough to beat. It is, I mean that’s one yard,” Caruso said. “That’s not a lot. But I do think even though the offense wasn’t wildly productive in the second half, I don’t know which one is more unique. I don’t know if we’ve ever had the ball for 25 minutes out of 30. That was pretty fun too, man.”