Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One can’t blame the St. Thomas football team if it enjoyed its post game celebration a little more than usual on Saturday. After all, it’s always more fun to beat your rival in their home stadium.
That’s exactly what the Tommies, ranked No. 5 in the latest Division III poll, did at St. John’s University. St. Thomas put together a stingy second half defensive effort in a 43-21 victory over the Johnnies at Clemens Stadium in Collegeville in front of nearly 15,000 people. The Tommies led 22-14 at the half and outscored their rivals 21-7 the rest of the way.
St. Thomas goes into its bye week 3-0 and at the top of the MIAC with Augsburg, Carleton and Concordia. The Tommies also won their third straight game over their rivals, something they haven’t done in more than 50 years.
St. Thomas showed plenty of balance in its offensive attack with 187 of its 405 yards of total offense coming on the ground. Quarterback Matt O’Connell led the Tommies with 59 yards on 12 carries, but Ryan Toney had the biggest game of the true running backs with 58 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
O’Connell also threw for 218 yards and touchdowns to Logan Marks and Dan Ferrazzo. He finished 16-of-31 passing and also had three interceptions.
Coach Glenn Caruso has plenty of time to clean a few things up. The Tommies had 12 penalties totaling 101 yards. That marks three straight games St. Thomas has had 10 or more penalties.
St. Thomas’s defense dictated the action in this contest. The Johnnies ran for just 44 total yards on the ground and sacked quarterback Connor Bruns twice. The Tommies also forced eight St. John’s punts. St. Thomas also picked off Bruns four times with Chinni Oji, Sean Hamlin, Tyler Erstad and Steve Dejewski all getting interceptions.
St. Thomas trailed St. John’s 14-7 early in the second quarter, but outscored the Johnnies 36-7 the rest of the contest.
It’s the kind of result you now come to expect if you’re a St. Thomas football fan. The changing of the guard in the MIAC started when the Tommies beat St. John’s two years ago in Collegeville on a missed extra point in overtime. Then last season, St. Thomas dominated the Johnnies in every imaginable way, leading 49-0 at half in a 63-7 win.
St. Thomas climbed to No. 5 in the national polls after UW-Whitewater had its 46-game winning streak snapped in a loss to Buffalo State College on Saturday. Mount Union was a near unanimous pick for No. 1 with 23 of 25 first-place votes. Bethel is also representing the MIAC at No. 11, and the Tommies will have another huge match-up with the Royals for homecoming on Oct. 13.
After a week off, St. Thomas travels to Carleton on Sept. 29. Carleton beat Hamline 21-14 on Saturday and travels to Arden Hills to face Bethel this week.