MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After a week off, it’s game week again for the St. Thomas football team.
The Tommies (3-0), ranked No.3 nationally in one poll and No. 5 in another, travels to Northfield on Saturday to take on Carleton at Laird Stadium. The Knights are coming off a 52-14 loss to Bethel, ranked No. 8 nationally.
Carleton is in a transitional mode this year with the departure of head coach Kurt Ramler after last season. Defensive coordinator Bob Pagel is the interim head coach this season. The Knights are off to a 2-1 start as they opened with a 20-14 overtime win at Grinnell on Sept. 1, then beat Hamline in their MIAC opener 21-14.
In looking at some of Carleton’s statistics, it suggests they’re a team searching for an identity. They average about 252 yards per game in total offense and have a balanced attack, but no one single athlete stands out as a go-to player. Their leading rusher, John Baker, averages just 41 yards per game. Andy Zweber has four rushing touchdowns, but is a short-yardage specialist with 27 yards on nine attempts this year.
Conor Lynch leads the team at quarterback with two passing TDs and averages 111 yards per game through the air. Chase Gottschalk and Anthony Kemper are their top receivers. The Knights were a razzle-dazzle team full of trick players under Ramler, a former St. John’s quarterback. Glenn Caruso said during the Tommies’ bye last week that under Pagel, they’re a far more conventional offense but still have the ability to make big plays.
Their team defense allows an average of 160 rushing yards per game and more than 200 yards through the air.
On paper, it appears to be game where if the Tommies focus on what they’re good at and come ready to play, things should take care of themselves. They enter the contest with plenty of momentum after dismantling St. John’s 43-21 in Collegeville.
St. Thomas, led by quarterback Matt O’Connell, who is averaging 286 yards passing and has six touchdowns on the season. Aaron Terrell-Byrd and Ryan Toney have become a solid 1-2 punch running the ball, and Dan Ferrazzo and Logan Marks have become two favorite targets for O’Connell.
When the two teams met last year in Northfield, the Tommies breezed to a 56-0 victory. Given that Bethel just handily defeated the Knights, I have to expect a similar result this weekend for St. Thomas. The Tommies have too much talent and depth on both sides of the ball. Whether that actually translates on the field on game day is an entirely different scenario.
Tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM at 1 p.m. Saturday as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will have the color commentary.