Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After handling Hamline 43-7 last week, the St. Thomas football team faces one of its tougher games of the 2013 schedule this Saturday.
The Tommies (5-2, 3-2) face a must-win situation when they head to Minneapolis Saturday to face Augsburg (4-3, 3-3). Then again, when you have two MIAC losses and need to win out to have any shot at the NCAA Playoffs, every week is a must-win. St. Thomas, ranked No. 18 in Division III, knows it needs some help to get there along with winning out.
With three games left, St. Thomas is in third alone in the MIAC with a 3-2 record. Bethel has the top spot at 5-0 with games left at Hamline Saturday, home against St. Olaf and at St. John’s to end the regular season. Concordia (Moorhead) and St. John’s are tied for second at 4-1. The Cobbers travel to Carleton Saturday, then head to St. Thomas and host Gustavus. After hosting Concordia, the Tommies finish at St. Olaf.
It’s been mentioned a couple times, but St. Thomas needs to have Bethel go undefeated and win the MIAC, then finish with the two losses it currently has to have a shot at the postseason. The Tommies’ recent history of success in the postseason should help them get consideration if that happens, especially considering last year’s run to the national title game.
But not so fast. None of that matters if the Tommies go across the Mississippi River and can’t take care of business against the Auggies. Despite a 4-3 record and a .500 mark in the MIAC, Augsburg has been competitive in virtually all of its losses other than last week’s 47-20 effort at Concordia. The Auggies lost to Bethel and St. John’s by a combined five points. Augsburg also trailed by 10 points to Gustavus in its MIAC opener before rallying for a 19-16 victory.
If the Tommeis are going to beat Augsburg, they’re going to have to do it with one of their better defensive efforts of the season. The Auggies have one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the MIAC and arguably the nation in Ayrton Scott. He leads an offense that averages more than 34 points per game and more than 450 yards in total offense.
Scott throws for about 275 yards per game and has 20 touchdowns on the season along with 10 interceptions. He’s also the Auggies’ leading rusher with about 75 yards per game and three touchdowns. Augsburg has four other running backs who have a combined 10 touchdowns. Scott’s top receiving option is without question Joey Sonnenfeld, who is averaging more than 97 yards per game and has nine touchdowns. Adam Carl and Phil Putratz also combine for more than 100 yards per game and have six touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, the Auggies allow about 25 points per game, 148 rushing yards and about 220 passing yards. The St. Thomas offense on the season is averaging almost 35 points per game. The Tommies have moved on from losing quarterbacks Matt O’Connell and Ben Duncan to injuries.
Now Alex Fenske and John Gould have combined to take over the offense. They had Hamline overmatched last week as Fenske threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns in a 65-6 victory. Gould also ran for 131 yards and a score.
It looks on paper like the Tommies have enough depth and weapons on offense to put up numbers against the Auggies. But it’s the defense that will need to contain Scott, not let him run or find open receivers to get the victory. A win Saturday sets up a huge match-up for St. Thomas at home on Nov. 9 against Concordia (Moorhead).
Kickoff this Saturday is set for 1:10 p.m. in Minneapolis. Tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM at about 1 p.m. as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play. Eric Nelson and former St. Thomas star Fritz Waldvogel will team up to provide color commentary.