Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The St. Thomas sideline was all smiles Saturday afternoon once a perfect regular season became a reality.
The No. 3-ranked Tommies completed a 10-0 regular season, despite already having the MIAC title won, with a 35-21 win over St. Olaf. It was the 34th straight regular season win for the Tommies, and their 27th straight MIAC win. St. Thomas also earned its fourth straight trip to the NCAA Playoffs.
The Tommies learned Sunday afternoon they’ll host St. Norbert College (Wis.), who finished 8-2 on the season. St. Thomas is the No. 1 seed in its region and has home field as long as it wins until the NCAA Playoffs.
Matt Allen caught two touchdown passes and Brenton Braddock ran for 210 yards and a touchdown to lead St. Thomas past the Oles. Dan Ferrazzo also had two catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.
The Tommies did their best to keep Dan Dobson, the leading passer in the MIAC, at bat. Dobson finished with 205 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Stephen Asp, the top receiver in the MIAC. The Oles finished with 319 yards of total offense, while the Tommies had 347 of their 498 total yards on the ground.
St. Olaf scored first to take a 7-0 lead, but St. Thomas answered with 28 straight points and had a 28-7 lead late into the third quarter. Allen’s second touchdown catch of the day, from 29 yards out, gave the Tommies a 35-14 lead with 4:53 left and all but sealed the victory.
The St. Thomas defense also sacked Dobson 3.5 times.
The Tommies are now preparing for their fourth straight trip to the postseason. They’re also not the only MIAC team to get into the 32-team field. Bethel University got an at-large bid after beating St. John’s University on Saturday.
For a variety of reasons, this 10-0 season might be the better than either of the previous two undefeated regular seasons. The Tommies had a lot of talent on both sides of the ball that graduated after last season, leaving much of the work this year to players who hadn’t seen a lot of action in game situations. St. Thomas has answered virtually every challenge that’s come its way, and now the reward is home field advantage until the NCAA Semifinals.
The other two teams in consideration for a bid were Concordia (Moorhead) and St. Olaf. The Oles were eliminated from contention after losing to St. Thomas, and the Cobbers fell short of an at-large bid with losses to Bethel and St. Thomas.
And while two MIAC teams get ready for the playoffs, things are seemingly up in the air at St. John’s. The speculation is that legendary coach John Gagliardi, whose Johnnies finished 5-5 after losing at Bethel last weekend, could step away from the sidelines and retire. He didn’t answer any speculator questions about it after Saturday’s game, but a decision either way wouldn’t surprise anybody.
We’ll preview the St. Thomas/St. Norbert match-up later this week. The Tommies have beaten the Green Knights twice recently, 20-7 last year and 40-7 in 2010. Bethel will also play at Concordia of Chicago on Saturday.