Glenn Caruso and the St. Thomas football program improved to 18-0 in non-conference play after a 57-17 win over UW-Stout on Saturday.
It was the home opener for the No. 4-ranked Tommies, who scored the game’s first 29 points and led 36-7 at the half. They gave the Blue Devils an early punch with two touchdowns 13 seconds apart, and Stout didn’t have an answer.
St. Thomas had 313 yards of offense in the game, but Caruso was more impressed by his team’s improvement from their Week 1 victory at Eau Claire.
“It’s the simple fact that we had a lot of things to clean up from our first game and we did that, so I was really happy about that. I think we feel good about going into league play,” Caruso said.
Heading into MIAC play, the Tommies have outscored two non-conference opponents by a combined 99-23. St. Thomas ran for 138 yards in the victory, including a pair of short-yardage scores from Tucker Trettel.
Jordan Roberts led the St. Thomas run game with 20 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“We have to utilize Tucker more. He may be a second running back but he’s not a back-up. He was instrumental in the playoff run we made last year,” Caruso said.
After scoring late in the first quarter on Alex Fenske’s 21-yard pass to Jackson Hull, Michael Alada came up with a big defensive play. He intercepted Jay Alston and returned it 23 yards for a score and a 13-0 lead.
The Tommies will take advantage of every big play they can get. Last year, they scored 107 touchdowns and of those, 100 were on offense. That means the rest either came in special teams or on a defensive score.
“When you get a defensive touchdown that’s kind of a big deal,” Caruso said. “Any time the offense doesn’t have to get on the field to score, it’s a pretty big deal.”
Joe Reed caught a pass in stride from Fenske and took it 71 yards for a touchdown to give St. Thomas a 43-10 lead early in the third quarter. Jacques Perra played the fourth quarter and threw for two touchdowns himself, each to Tanner Vik.
The St. Thomas defense had another dominant day with 11 tackles for a loss and three sacks.
“Our front seven is as deep as it’s been in nine years,” Caruso said. “It’s not just one guy, it’s all 11 guys getting to the ball. We played 20 guys in the first half.”
St. Thomas starts MIAC play with a home kickoff Saturday against Carleton, which is off to an 0-2 start. The Knights lost to Macalester 30-23 in their opener and followed that last week with a 42-21 loss to Lake Forest. When St. Thomas met Carleton last year, the Tommies cruised to an 80-3 victory.
Despite the 0-2 start, Carleton puts up offensive numbers that are at least respectable. The Knights are scoring 22 points per game and run for about 118 of their 287 yards of offense they’re averaging per game.
The challenge for St. Thomas is that Carleton quarterback Zach Creighton is also their leading rusher at 89.5 yards per game. He has three rushing touchdowns in two games. He is averaging 157.5 yards per game passing and has two passing touchdowns.
“Carleton is simple and it allows them to get the most out of their kids. They’ve had struggles, but they can put up points, that’s for sure,” Caruso said. “We have to be assignment sound, that’s for sure.”
It’s all setting up for another classic showdown in Week 4, when St. Thomas travels to St. John’s. The Johnnies host St. Olaf this week and will be heavily favored. Both the Tommies and Johnnies will be top-10 teams when they meet, much like last year.
St. Thomas and Carleton kick off at 1:10 p.m. Saturday 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 provide color commentary as well as Fritz Waldvogel from the sidelines.