MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – While teams around them at the top of the MIAC football standings are fighting out close games, the St. Thomas football team came off its bye week with a 47-24 win at Carleton to improve to 4-0.
The Tommies remained at No. 3 nationally in one poll and moved up to No. 4 in another. St. John’s, meanwhile, lost 38-35 at home to St. Olaf. Bethel edged Augsburg 21-20 after the Auggies failed on a late two-point conversion try.
Aaron Terrell-Byrd missed St. Thomas’s game due to an injury, but it didn’t affect the rushing game as the Tommies piled up 357 yards on the ground of their 589 yards in total offense. A virtual unknown had a coming out party as Brenton Braddock had 13 carries for 123 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
“He’s a really good player out of Mahtomedi,” said St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso. “He had kind of a freak injury last year and broke his leg, so a lot of people are asking who this kid is. He’s not a surprise to us.”
It was also the second straight game where the Tommies scored on their opening play from scrimmage. Matt O’Connell connected with Dan Noehring for a 33-yard score when the Tommies won up at St. John’s. Saturday, O’Connell connected with Dan Ferrazzo for a 79-yard touchdown 18 seconds in.
Caruso said he tends to get a little concerned when his team scores on a big play early in a game. He said he prefers to run clock and establish an offensive rhythm.
“You’re never upset with a quick score, but I would rather have a nice drive,” Caruso said.
The Tommies scored 21 third quarter points to put the game away after leading 20-10 at the half. Noehring scored on a 20-yard pass from O’Connell, and Braddock scored on runs of 2 and 5 yards.
The task this week might seem simple at first, but it’s not as easy as it looks. The Tommies host Gustavus, which is coming off a 37-0 win over Hamline. What’s looming two weeks away is what appears to be the biggest game on the Tommies schedule, an Oct. 13 homecoming game against Bethel, which is also currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation.
Caruso said he’s not worried about the possibility of his team looking past Gustavus. After all, games after Saturday are meaningless until the final horn sounds and they’ve won.
“Looking ahead is never really an issue with our team. Looking behind or looking ahead is a sign of lacking mental toughness. I hope we play a great game and there’s certainly a chance that we don’t. But it’s a pretty straight forward week,” Caruso said.
In looking at the Gusties, they appear to have a threat at running back as Jeffrey Dubose ran for 142 yards and four touchdowns against Hamline. That should provide the Tommies, one of the top run defenses in the country, with a stiff test.
Caruso said quarterback Muresuk Mena also presents a challenge with his ability to run and throw the ball. He had 125 yards rushing and a touchdown last week.
“He’s a very elusive kid and can throw the ball,” Caruso said.
Gustavus also has eight starters back from last year’s defense and has already matched their two-win total from last season. When the two teams met last year, the Tommies grinded out a 20-7 win.
The Gustavus defense is allowing about 17 points per game and around 375 yards in total offense, but undoubtedly will have one of its biggest tests of the season at St. Thomas.
Kickoff is set for just after 1 p.m. Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. Tune into the action at WCCO Radio 830 AM as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will provide color commentary.