The St. Thomas football team likely had a very enjoyable bus ride home Saturday afternoon.
The Tommies, ranked No. 12 in the nation, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides Saturday in Collegeville in front of a record crowd of more than 17,000 spectators. With St. John’s entering the contest ranked No. 8 in the country, it was one of the biggest match-ups in the history of the Tommie-Johnnie rivalry.
It was big enough that ESPN brought its “SportsCenter on the Road” show to Collegeville for a live broadcast in a stadium filled with fans at 6 a.m. on game day.
Jordan Roberts was the star of the day, running for 230 yards and four touchdowns as St. Thomas outscored St. John’s 28-7 in the second half of a 35-14 victory. The scores went for 5, 12, 15 and 40 yards. The 15-yard score came in the third quarter to give St. Thomas a 21-7 lead and the 40-yard run was the dagger, giving the Tommies a 35-14 lead with a little more than two minutes left in regulation.
The Tommies moved up three spots to No. 9 in the national polls with the win. It’s one of the biggest in Glenn Caruso’s coaching career.
The St. Thomas defense was as impressive, if not more, than Roberts. The Tommies limited St. John’s running back, an All-American and one of the best in the nation, to just 74 yards both of their touchdowns. In last year’s match-up, he ran for 210 yards and two scores.
The Johnnies managed less than 300 yards and were just 5-of-14 on third downs. Nick Martin threw for 252 yards, but St. Thomas intercepted him twice.
The only blemish for St. Thomas on the day offensively was a John Gould interception, which led to a St. John’s touchdown in the second quarter. The Tommies also fumbled twice, but recovered both of them.
The Tommies stayed with the ground game most of the day, and St. John’s had no answer. St. Thomas rushed for 338 yards in the victory. The Tommies won the battle in the trenches on both sides, as the defense sacked Martin four times and had seven tackles for a loss in the game. Steve Harrell and Tim McClanahan combined for 26 tackles in a dominant defensive effort.
St. Thomas is now back this week for its first home MIAC game as St. Olaf makes the trip from Northfield. The Oles are 0-2 in the MIAC and have lost three straight since a season-opening 16-13 win over Northwestern. St. Olaf lost its MIAC opener to Bethel, 49-3, and lost to Concordia (Moorhead) 37-7 on Saturday.
After playing so well in such a huge game against a quality opponent, it’s the classic game where the Tommies can’t afford to take a mental break. But I wouldn’t call it a trap game by any means, especially with St. Thomas playing at home. St. Olaf doesn’t have the depth, talent or the athleticism to match up well with a team like St. Thomas. The Oles will need to play a perfect game and get some help with turnovers to stay close.
It’s a match-up on paper that heavily favors St. Thomas. The Oles are being outscored by an average of 33-10 on the season and are allowing more than 300 rushing yards per game as part of an average of 426 yards in total offense allowed.
St. Olaf averages about 265 yards in total offense per game, 125 of which is on the ground. The Oles are led by quarterback Nate Penz, who averages 136 passing yards per game and has three touchdowns. They’re led in the run game by Connor McCormick, who averages about 58 yards per game.
After having big games against the Johnnies, it’s a safe bet that the St. Olaf defense will get a healthy dose of Roberts and Jack Kaiser.
St. Olaf is coached by Craig Stern, who is in his third season leading the program. The Oles have gone 1-9 in each of the last two seasons, and Stern is still in the works of building his program.
After St. Olaf, the Tommies will travel to Augsburg for what should be a tough test on Oct. 10. St. Thomas then hosts Hamline Oct. 17 before a tough two-game stretch hosting Bethel and at Concordia (Moorhead).
In other MIAC games this weekend, Concordia hosts Bethel, Hamline hosts St. John’s and Carleton hosts Gustavus. The premier match-up of the week will be Concordia hosting Bethel. The Cobbers need a win over the Royals to keep themselves in contention in the MIAC.
St. Thomas and St. Olaf kick off at 1:10 p.m. Saturday at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. Tune into News Radio 830 WCCO AM at about 1 p.m. as Dave Lee will have the play-by-play and Eric Nelson will provide color commentary along with Fritz Waldvogel.