Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The St. Thomas football is 7-0 on the season, 5-0 in MIAC play and has a top five national ranking for at least the third straight week.
But you’ll be hard-pressed to find the Tommies celebrating it. After all, they really haven’t done anything yet. They haven’t clinched a MIAC title, and they haven’t secured a postseason berth yet. The Tommies also start their most crucial and difficult stretch to end the regular season, starting by hosting Augsburg on Saturday.
The Auggies are 4-2 in MIAC play and have been competitive in every game. They blew out St. John’s 48-17, won at St. Olaf 45-38, gave Bethel a great test in a 21-20 loss and also came up just short to Concordia in a 38-31 loss.
It makes Saturday’s match-up the newest biggest game of the year for St. Thomas, especially considering the last two weeks. The Tommies had their best game of the year in a 37-0 shutout of Bethel, but then had to overcome six turnovers in a 51-9 win at Bethel. Turnovers often determine games, and it’s something the Tommies won’t be able to afford if they have any chance at beating Augsburg.
“They have plenty of offense and they do a great job of balancing it. They’re the most consistently improved team in the last three years and they’ve already won big games,” said St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso.
The Auggies average 483 yards of total offense per game, and it’s almost split perfectly between the run and pass with 257 rushing yards per game. Augsburg features the new favorite thing in college football: The dual threat quarterback.
Ayrton Scott leads the team with more than 1,500 yards passing and 20 touchdowns. He’s also their leading rusher with more than 1,000 yards on the ground and five scores. Jerise Washington leads Augsburg with six rushing touchdowns.
Adam Carl and Tyler Swanson are Scott’s favorite targets as they each have seven receiving touchdowns. It’s quite the challenge for the Tommies, who have had one of the nation’s toughest run defenses the last two seasons.
“Ayrton is among the top quarterbacks we’ve seen. He’s a smart player and is tremendously accurate,” Caruso said. “He’s a lot like Matt (O’Connell) in that he’s a dual threat guy. He’s a scary player, that’s for sure.”
Where St. Thomas has an opportunity is on offense, as long as it takes care of the ball. The Auggies allow on average more than 145 yards per game on the ground and about 423 yards a game in total offense. I wouldn’t expect the Tommies to change much in their offensive approach, other than limiting turnovers. After all, they’re 7-0 for a reason.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier after this week either. The Tommies travel to Concordia (Moorhead) to face the Cobbers, who are always a tough game. St. Thomas hosts St. Olaf to end its regular season. The Tommies need to win at least two of their last three conference games at this point to clinch a share of the MIAC title. Bethel and Concordia remain with one loss each in MIAC play.
Tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM at about 1 p.m. Saturday as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will provide color commentary.