Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s just another week for the St. Thomas football team, but there are not a lot of teams left that can say that.
In fact, the Tommies are one of 16 teams left playing in Division III after a dominating 48-17 win over St. Norbert last weekend in the opening round of the NCAA Playoffs. And yes, they were practicing on Thanksgiving when most other families were stuffing their faces full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
They are a football family for at least another week, and can guarantee themselves another game with a win over Elmhurst College on Saturday.
The Bluejays won the College Conference of Illinois with a 6-1 mark in conference play and improved to 10-1 on the season with a 27-24 win over Coe College in the first round of the playoffs last week. Their CCIW title is the program’s first since 1980.
In their playoff win, Elmhurst got two touchdown passes and 164 yards through the air from quarterback Joe Furco. Scottie Williams appears to be a horse in the run game as he had 35 carries for 200 yards and a touchdown.
Furco’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Corey Thonn early in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winning score against Coe.
In looking at their overall statistics, the Bluejays have no problem finding the end zone or collecting yards. They outscore opponents by an average of 32-21 and collect more than 253 yards per game on the ground. That should be a great test for the St. Thomas defense, which allows 66.5 yards per game.
Furco has more than 1,800 passing yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. Williams has nearly 2,000 yards on the ground with 21 touchdowns. Three receivers have three touchdowns each for the Bluejays.
The Tommies can win this game running the ball, where they’ve been successful pretty much all season. Elmhurst allows more than 200 rushing yards a game, and St. Thomas averages more than 254 yards per game. More than 150 of that combined is from quarterback Matt O’Connell and sophomore Brenton Braddock.
St. Thomas also has history on its side, especially with playing at home in the playoffs. The Tommies have won 14 consecutive games, including seven straight playoff wins, in the month of November. The Tommies are 29-1 in their last 30 games at O’Shaughnessy Stadium, including 14 straight wins since losing 12-7 to Bethel in the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals. St. Thomas has also reached the NCAA quarterfinals in each of the past three seasons.
To sum it up, St. Thomas is looking for some home cooking during Thanksgiving week. Kickoff between the Tommies and Bluejays is slated for noon Saturday in St. Paul. It’s important also to note that these two teams have never faced each other before.
Tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM for live coverage of the game as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will provide color commentary.
If St. Thomas wins, it would host the winner of Hobart and Wittenberg on Dec. 1 in St. Paul. It’s important to note that the other three top seeds all advanced in the playoffs last week. The other MIAC team in the playoffs, Bethel, survived with a 24-23 win over Concordia College of Chicago and travels UW-Oshkosh on Saturday.