Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Glenn Caruso could have lamented the mistakes the St. Thomas football team made in a 28-14 win over Gustavus on Saturday to remain unbeaten on the season.
Instead, he focused on the positives of a team that made several mistakes, yet still beat a conference opponent handily. The No. 3-ranked Tommies fumbled five times, losing three, and Matt O’Connell had three passes intercepted in the victory.
A stiff defensive effort by St. Thomas to the tune of 44 total rushing yards and just seven offensive points led the Tommies to victory.
“I honestly didn’t realize we had that many turnovers and they all came in different fashions,” said St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso. “It’s inexcusable to have that many, but it’s also assuring to overcome those turnovers and still win convincingly.”
The turnover that kept Gustavus in the game happened early in the third quarter. O’Connell was sacked and fumbled, and Cory Colvard scooped it up and ran 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7. The Gusties got as close as 21-14 before Brenton Braddock sealed the St. Thomas win with a 4-yard rushing touchdown with just less than six minutes left in the game.
The St. Thomas defense had one of its better performances of the season, keeping elusive quarterback Muresuk Mena contained to 155 passing yards and negative rushing yardage. The Tommies sacked him 12 times, with Chinni Oji and Riley Dombek each getting him twice. Tremayne Williams also had arguably his best game of the season with four tackles, one sack, a forced fumble which he recovered and a big interception in the fourth quarter.
“We ended up with a dozen sacks on the day and our defense played with a ton of discipline in how they pressured. We didn’t allow (Mena) to get to the edge much. Tremayne’s stat line was impressive, and the thing with him is he gets stronger throughout the game,” Caruso said.
O’Connell led the Tommes in rushing with 147 yards on 13 carries, including a 74-yard touchdown in the third quarter that gave St. Thomas a 21-0 lead. Dan Noehring also caught a 35-yard touchdown from O’Connell on the Tommies opening possession.
St. Thomas collected 468 yards of total offense in the win.
The Tommies also went over a teachable moment in football after what happened in a MIAC game just up the road involving their opening this Saturday, Bethel, which happens to be homecoming at St. Thomas. Trailing 14-7, Bethel was driving on Concordia and had one last chance to score. The Royals’ quarterback was sacked and fumbled, but before the Cobbers could recover with the clock expired, several Concordia players and coaches stormed the field to celebrate their big win.
The Cobbers were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving Bethel an untimed down at the Concordia 9-yard line. The Royals scored to get within 14-13, then scored on a gutsy 2-point conversion to get a thrilling 15-14 win.
“It was a pretty amazing finish. We absolutely showed it to our team,” Caruso said. “It’s tough to delineate sometimes when a game is over with either a sack or incomplete pass. But you have to credit Bethel for playing until the whistle.”
The Tommies get that Bethel team this Saturday for their Homecoming game. We’ll preview it later this week as Dave Lee and Eric Nelson will have the call on WCCO Radio 830 AM.