Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every game is big when you’re undefeated, ranked in the top five in the nation and everyone wants nothing more than to beat you.
It’s even bigger when the team you’re facing is also unbeaten. That’s what the No. 3-ranked St. Thomas football team faces when it travels to Augsburg Saturday in a showdown of the lone unbeaten teams left in the MIAC.
The Tommies are 5-0 and coming off what is usually their biggest game of the year. St. Thomas led rival St. John’s 49-0 at the half on the way to a 63-7 win over St. John’s on Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. The Tommies have been nothing short of dominant since their season-opening win over St. Norbert. They’ve scored at least 45 points in each of their last four victories.
The Auggies are definitely not to be overlooked Saturday afternoon. They’re 4-0 and have gotten there in a variety of ways. Augsburg edge Concordia (Wis.) 34-31 in its opener, held off Hamline for a 28-20 win and then there was the victory over the Johnnies, where they drove 80 yards with two plays in 18 seconds to spoil homecoming there with a 32-31 victory.
Last week, the Auggies pretty much cruised to a 35-14 victory over Carleton. Tommies’ coach Glenn Caruso said he will have his hands full Saturday in Minneapolis.
“The impressive thing about Augsburg is how they’ve won. I’m impressed by teams that are dynamic and can win many different ways, and they’ve shown they can do that,” Caruso said. “They’ve won games where they’ve rolled, they’ve won at the wire and have had to come back. That says something.”
From the outside looking in, it might be tough to find areas of improvement for the Tommies. They’ve been in control on both sides of the ball in each of the last four games. They also dominated from the opening kickoff on Saturday.
Don’t expect a letdown from the Tommies after an emotional win over a big rival. Beating St. John’s is great and being 5-0 is great, but it doesn’t mean much for their season goals if they don’t find a way to beat Augsburg.
“People ask about big game hang overs, but these guys do a really good job of figuring out how to approach things each week,” Caruso said. “The biggest message I’ve had for the guys is really no different than the last five weeks. We’re a pretty good team that just wants to get a little bit better every week.”
The St. Thomas defense has been rather stingy as of late, and they’ll have their hands full this week as Augsburg presents several challenges.
The Auggies are led by quarterback Marcus Brumm, who was a star at Lakeville South when the school got started. In four games, Brumm has 942 passing yards and seven touchdowns. He’s not afraid to spread the ball around as four receivers have six of his seven touchdowns. Hakeem Bourne-McFarlane is their leading receiver by the statistics, but Waylon Hartwick leads the team with three receiving touchdowns. Hartwick is also one of their top running threats.
“I love their QB. Brumm just went over 5,000 yards for his career. We could be here 25 seasons and not have a 5,000 yard passer,” Caruso said. “He’s wildly talented, but what sets them apart is they have a very stellar and legitimate run game.”
Their running back corps is led by Tyler Maxwell, who has 426 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
Augsburg’s defense has seven starters back from last year and is led by Edmond Smith, who leads the unit with 42 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for a loss, and four sacks. Close behind are Tyler Phillips (37 tackles), Bryce Vee (35 tackles) and Adam Sonntag (30 tackles).
“What I love about their defense is they have as veteran a group as we’ll ever see,” Caruso said.
Winning on the road is also never an easy task. The Tommies (5-0) and Auggies (4-0) kick off at 1:10 p.m. Saturday at Edor Nelson Field on the Augsburg College campus. If you can’t make it to the game, tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM as Dave Lee and Eric Nelson will have the call. You can also listen to the live broadcast on wcco.com.