RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- Second-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) survived an uneven, penalty-plagued performance on offense to overcome Wisconsin-River Falls 25-7 Thursday night at Ramer Field.

The Tommies (2-0) scored easily on their first possession with a four-play drive but struggled thereafter to find their rhythm on offense. They played stingy defense deep in their own territory to twice keep River Falls (0-2) at bay in the fourth quarter.

“We knew they were tough from the St. John’s game,” head coach Glenn Caruso said of the Falcons, who dropped a 17-14 heartbreaker to the Johnnies on Sept. 6 after leading 14-7 late in the game. “They improved greatly between games 1 and 2.”

The St. Thomas defense, after allowing 182 yards and seven-of -11 third-down conversions in the first half, buckled down after the break. It held the Falcons to 62 yards on 32 plays in the second half and only two-of-eight third-down conversions -- more in tune with the 28 percent hold rate that ranked among the best in Division III last year. The Tommies finished with five sacks for 33 yards.

“What I loved about our defensive effort,” Caruso said, “was we rolled a ton of guys in there, stayed fresh and were aggressive throughout the whole game.”

St. Thomas had a 438-244 advantage in total offense and held the Falcons to net 72 rushing yards on 34 carries after the sacks were factored in.

The win was the 36th in a row during regular seasons for St. Thomas and sets up a Sept. 21 showdown with St. John’s at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. The Tommies’ last loss in regular season was 20-7 in overtime in October 2009 at St. John’s.