Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The St. Thomas football team has a bye this week, but it might be hard to tell that if you’re at practice this week.
The focus and intensity remains high as the Tommies entered the week ranked in the top five in both Division III national polls. It comes off a 43-21 win at St. John’s, one of their biggest rivals, on the road in a hostile environment.
“It was a really exciting win. It wasn’t our best game ever, probably a B- game, but it felt good to go up there and get a win,” said St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso.
One of the most impressive stats the Tommies had coming out of the game was the 24 total rushing yards the defense allowed. St. Thomas had one of the top rushing defenses in the country last year, and they’ve carried that over this year.
Caruso said his defensive unit has asserted itself to stopping the run this season.
“Our D stops the run by putting actual bodies in the box. We have good athletes who can run and our defensive coaches bring the right blitzes. Plus our secondary is really seasoned,” Caruso said.
The Tommies do have some things to clean up despite their 3-0 record. They had four interceptions, three from quarterback Matt O’Connell, in Saturday’s win at St. John’s. They were also flagged for 12 penalties. St. Thomas has had at least 10 penalties called against them in all three games this season.
Caruso wasn’t shy about his desire to have games called more evenly on the penalty side of things.
“You can’t control what’s called, but I can control the number of penalties we have,” Caruso said. “If you look at the last four years, we’ve ranked last in the number of penalties called against the opponent. I’d like to see it be called a little more evenly.”
So what does a team do on its bye week? Logic might suggest to take it a little easier in practice and let the bumps and bruises of the season so far heal. Not so on Cretin and Summit Avenues in St. Paul.
The Tommies had three full workouts this week, the standard for a week where there’s a Saturday game. The coaching staff hits the recruiting trail with high school football all across the state Friday night, and Caruso said he might take in a game as a fan this weekend.
The Gophers host Syracuse at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday night.
“The Gophers are at home? Maybe I’ll go check that out,” Caruso said.
The Tommies, ranked No. 3 nationally in the coach’s poll and No. 5 in another poll, get back to action Sept. 29, traveling to Northfield to face Carleton. The Knights have a new head coach and are 2-0 on the season heading into a Saturday match-up with Bethel.