MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It makes a lot of sense that Glenn Caruso is nothing short of confident as the St. Thomas football team heads into its home opener.
The Tommies didn’t play close to their best game last Saturday at UW-Eau Claire, and most teams don’t in their first games. But trailing by 11 points with six minutes left and coming back to win tells him something about his football team.
“I’m always happy winning an opener. It’s pretty rare that you can learn the lessons we did after a win,” Caruso said. “Usually those kinds of lessons come after a loss.”
Despite committing 13 penalties and not converting on three chances in the red zone in the first half, the Tommies collected 428 yards in total offense and made enough plays late to win.
“It tells me we can be dynamic if we eliminate the major issues we have. Our red zone offense was atrocious. That has to get better,” Caruso said.
In his first collegiate start, Matt O’Connell passed for 266 yards and accounted for all three St. Thomas touchdowns in the victory. O’Connell found Dan Ferrazzo for a 49-yard score late in the fourth quarter that got the Tommies within 24-21 after a two-point conversion. After an interception gave St. Thomas the ball back, O’Connell scored on a 32-yard run around the right end that ended up being the game-winner.
Now that they’re 1-0, this week’s task is improving and taking advantage of their only September home game. St. Thomas, ranked No. 7 in the most recent national poll, hosts UW-River Falls at 1:10 p.m. Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. The Tommies beat the Falcons 45-22 in River Falls last season.
River Falls is coming off a 31-22 loss to Simpson College (Iowa) last week. St. Thomas is 25-2 at home in Caruso’s four years at St. Thomas.
“It’s our only September home game and we have a very good record at home, but with that comes the responsibility of playing well,” Caruso said. “Most coaches love Week 2 because that’s where you tend to see the most improvement in your team, so I’m excited for the game.”
Caruso said UW-River Falls is in a very similar state to when he took over as St. Thomas coach four seasons ago.
“They’re between year one and year two with their team and the coaches are still getting players to believe in what they’re doing,” Caruso said. “You can see it on film, but they’re a well-balanced team.”
Can’t make it to Saturday’s game? WCCO Radio will broadcast it live from O’Shaughnessy Stadium as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will be on the sideline providing color commentary.