MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The St. Thomas football team already clinched at least a share of the MIAC title last Saturday with a 20-7 win over Gustavus, but the team has bigger things in mind.
The Tommies end the regular season Saturday with a contest at Carleton, and a win there means much more than a 10-0 season. That’s great, but with it comes an outright MIAC title, a trophy celebration and an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III playoffs.
An unblemished record likely also means the Tommies would play on their home turf throughout the playoffs.
“We’re 9-0 but we can do better than that. We’re happy with it but we’re not satisfied,” said St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso. “We learned from the last two years there’s such an enormous difference between 9-1 and 10-0. Being 9-1 puts you on a plane in the playoffs, and being 10-0 gives you home field throughout the playoffs. There’s a huge difference there.”
The preparations are no different this week than they have been in any other week of practice for the Tommies. There’s no reason to change things if what they’ve been doing has worked.
St. Thomas is relying on a dominant defense lately to get most of its wins. The Tommies have allowed a total of 27 points over their last five games, including two shutouts. That’s since a 48-30 win at Concordia College in Moorhead.
“Ever since we got home from the Concordia game our defense has been lights out,” Caruso said. “We allowed four touchdowns in five games in the month of October. Having a team that can run the ball and put up huge stats on defense makes us successful.”
That defense will be tested once again as Kurt Ramler, a former St. John’s quarterback and now head coach at Carleton, will throw everything he can think of at the Tommies. They’re a more balanced team this season than in previous years, but Ramler’s teams always have a trick play or big play up their sleeve.
Carleton (2-6) is coming off a 47-14 loss to St. John’s last week.
“Every time we play them it’s always a tough, hard-fought close game,” Caruso said. “It’s one of the reasons we enjoy playing them so much. They’re a very well-coached team and they get the most out of their kids without question. It will pay off for them at some point.”
It’s a game where the Tommies have to show up at the opening kickoff and not give their opponent any early chances, something they haven’t had any problems with this season. It also helps St. Thomas to have one of the best run defenses in the country as well as one of the top quarterback-receiver duos in the nation in Dakota Tracy and Fritz Waldvogel.
St. Thomas and Carleton kick off at 1:10 p.m. Saturday at Laird Stadium in Northfield. Tune into the game on WCCO Radio 830 AM as Dave Lee and Eric Nelson will have the call. You can also find a live stream of that call on wcco.com. The broadcast will start at 1 p.m.