Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When you’re undefeated, every game is your biggest game of the year. Last week, the St. Thomas football team played its best overall game of the year in its biggest game of the year so far.
The Tommies dominated Bethel in a 37-0 victory in a match-up of two top-10 teams. It wasn’t so much the fact that St. Thomas beat Bethel, but it was the way they did it. This week, the Tommies hit the road to take on Hamline, who is winless in the MIAC and has just one win on the season.
Of common opponents, the Pipers were shut out 37-0 by Gustavus and lost to Carleton 21-14. Saturday’s game has all the makings of another easy win for the Tommies, but I heard Glenn Caruso say what I would expect every coach to say in this situation on WCCO Radio Thursday night.
“The beauty of college football and of the MIAC is that anybody can beat anybody on any given day,” he said.
While losing to Hamline is a long shot, there’s always the possibility. The bottom line for the Tommies is there’s nothing more important right now than beating the Pipers on Saturday. Nothing else this season matters if they don’t come out on top.
On paper, it looks like St. Thomas should take care of business if they play like they have most of the season. The Pipers have been outscored by an average of 41-17this season. They allow more than 210 rushing yards a game and more than five yards per carry. That doesn’t bode well for Hamline in trying to defend Matt O’Connell, Aaron Terrell-Byrd and Brenton Braddock.
The Pipers have also allowed 188 yards passing per game on average and 16 passing touchdowns on the season. With Logan Marks, Dan Ferrazzo and Dan Noehring as vital weapons in the passing game, Hamline’s defense has a daunting task ahead of them. St. Thomas averages 480 yards of offense a game, including 230 on the ground.
Hamline also has its work cut out on offense. The Tommies are allowing only 15 points per game on average and just 44 rushing yards per game. They’re one of the top-ranked defenses in the nation.
The Pipers are simply overmatched statistically. When you’re overmatched, you have to create turnovers and control the ball on offense to have any chance. The key for the Tommies will be the same as it is every time they’re a heavy favorite: Score early, be stingy defensively early and take the opponent out of the game as quickly as possible.
The longer Hamline is in the game, the worse it gets for St. Thomas. A perfect scenario for Caruso would be to have reserves playing in the second half.
Kickoff is set for 1:10 p.m. Saturday at Klas Field. Tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM at 1 p.m. as Dave Lee and Eric Nelson will have the call.