It looked a lot like a first game by many standards, but the St. Thomas football team pulled away after the first quarter for a 42-6 win at UW-Eau Claire Saturday night.
The No. 4-ranked Tommies scored 42 unanswered points and collected 467 yards of total offense in the win. By all accounts, Alex Fenske passed the test at quarterback in his first start of the season. He finished 17-of-28 for 345 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Waldvogel, who finished the day with seven catches for 115 yards, was on the receiving end of two of those touchdowns.
Jordan Roberts, one of the best running backs in Division III last year, had to grind out 62 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
Perhaps more impressive was their defense, which gave up only 134 total yards and just 13 yards rushing. The St. Thomas defense got eight sacks and had 16 tackles for a loss.
“I’m really happy with the pressure we got,” St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said. “The star of the defense is the system. It always has been.”
Caruso said he wasn’t surprised that it took a little while for the Tommies to find a rhythm, and he expected some first-game mistakes.
“Overall it wasn’t as clean a game as I expected and there was certainly some rust in the first quarter but there’s room for growth and that’s the whole point,” Caruso said. “We’ve never really been a great first-game team.”
The Tommies are now getting ready for their home opener on Saturday as UW-Stout will visit St. Paul. Classes also started Wednesday at St. Thomas, so now it’s about the routine and figuring out the normal weekly schedule.
The Blue Devils will give St. Thomas plenty to look at, at least in the film room. UW-Stout won its opener in a 45-30 shootout over Simpson College of Iowa. Stout finished last season 4-7 and lost three of its last four games.
But at least on Saturday, it was the Jay Alston, Travis Urlaub and Jordan Dabney show. Alston was 15-of-27 passing for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Dabney had five catches for 223 yards and two scores, and Urlaub had 23 carries for 190 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue Devils had 521 yards of offense in the victory.
“They’re dynamic on offense. I absolutely love their QB, I recruited him,” Caruso said. “I like their O-line and they have a talented running back. He has deceptive speed. They’re definitely a very good team.”
The Tommies will be tested defensively, and last Saturday’s win was a dominant group effort. Adam Brant, Michael Alada, Bennett Celichowski and Steve Harrell all had four tackles each in the victory to lead St. Thomas.
Caruso said his team is looking forward to playing in front of its home crowd on Saturday.
“We loved going to Eau Clare, that’s been one of our favorite road trips. But it feels good to play where you practice all week and we’re getting everybody back to class so I know the guys are looking forward to it.”
No. 4-ranked St. Thomas and UW-Stout kick off at 1:10 pm. Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in St. Paul. Tune into WCCO Radio 830 AM at about 1 p.m. as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will have color commentary along with Fritz Waldvogel from the sidelines.