Tommie Sports - General News

Gene's Blog: Alabama? We could take 'em (sarcasm)

January 09, 2013

Action pic
Football fans looking for bragging rights should click here: (Greg Smith photo)


Do you remember when your kindergarten teacher would tell you to “Put on your thinking caps?”

We’re going to do the opposite with today’s blog. We’re suspending reality. Please put on your fantasy caps.

To win some spending money, see if a smart college football fan will take your wager of $20 over this premise: That Tommie football could beat a Division I football team on the field.

Now that you have their interest, double the wager and claim the Tommies could beat a football team from an FBS major conference.

Next, extend the bet to a cool $100, plus an old houndstooth hat, over whether the Division III Tommies could beat… FBS national champion Alabama.

Well, here’s the 21-part equation:

1) The Tommies beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh…

2) which beat Linfield (Ore.)…

3) which beat Hardin-Simmons (Texas)…

4) which beat NAIA’s Texas College…

5) which defeated Concordia (Ala.)…

6) which beat FCS Mississippi Valley State…

7) which beat Southern (La.) University…

8) which beat Florida A&M…

9) which beat Hampton (Va.) …

10) which beat Norfolk (Va.) State…

11) which beat Liberty (Va.)…

12) which beat Stony Brook (N.Y.)…

13) which beat FBS team Army…

14) which beat Boston College…

15) which beat Maryland…

16) which beat Temple…

17) which beat Connecticut…

18) which beat Louisville…

19) which beat Florida…

20) which beat Texas A&M…

21) which defeated the national champion Crimson Tide.

Thus, St. Thomas could take down Alabama. Do you want your $100 winnings in large or small bills?

Spoiler alert: Macalester and the eight other MIAC football programs can claim a similar delightful but delusional argument.

Thanks to the marvels of technology, stiffs like me don’t have to spend hours looking up these inane stats. Check out this cool website for these and other fun scenarios in college football:

The website has this motto: “Taking illogical arguments to absurd extremes since 2008.”

Another fact using this flawed formula is that only one team out of the 800-plus in NCAA and NAIA listed can claim they could beat St. Thomas in 2012 -- Mount Union. Since the Purple Raiders went 15-0, nobody beat them and there's no other trail for the computer.

I believe that just two teams can claim ultimate superiority -- Mount Union and another Division III unbeaten, Trinity (Ct.) of the NESCAC, a conference which doesn't allow its teams to play in the postseason playoffs.

Ohio State went 12-0 but was on probation and not eligible for the postseason.

OK, back to reality. Please put your thinking caps back on.


Rare Play at O'Shaughnessy

In 30-plus years working in the athletics communications world, including the last 25 as a college sports information director, I’ve seen my share of strange plays and situations.

As a pro beat writer for Associated Press and the old United Press International, I covered a 22-inning Twins game that ended at 1:24 a.m. Courtside with the Timberwolves, I nearly choked in Kevin Garnett’s pre-game talcum powder ritual, and almost was hit by Bill Musselman’s gum that he flung in anger. Once, in the Twins’ locker room, Kent Hrbek made fun of my tennis shoes. (It was 1994, red Polos, I deserved the ridicule).

I’ve seen several cool buzzer beaters in basketball. Just two weeks ago, I was courtside as UST’s Zach Riedeman sank a 60-foot shot at the close of the first half that was huge in a 68-63 win over No. 5-ranked UW-Stevens Point.

I’ve witnessed dramatic home runs and walk-off plays in baseball and softball. I’ve watched volleyball matches come down to the final point.

Plenty of unique plays sprout up in football, including laterals and on special teams. I recall an onside kickoff try on the turf that rolled 20 yards backwards in the wind. I remember a couple of punts that went for negative yards in the gusts, and a couple of others that traveled 80 yards. I’ve seen two 99-yard TD passes. In a recent three-game home playoff stretch, Tommie senior Ayo Idowu returned fumbles 86 and 25 yards for touchdowns.

I missed last Thursday's Fiesta Bowl, won by Oregon over Kansas State, 35-17. It turns out that one of the rarest plays in college football occurred -– a one-point safety, credited to the Ducks.

In 1988, college football amended its rules to allow for a two-point defensive PAT score. This rare result comes if the defense intercepts a pass or scoops a fumble or blocked PAT kick and is able to return it the length of the field to the end zone.

The rule change created one other remote possibility on a PAT -– a one-point safety awarded to the offense, enforced when a defender gets a loose ball, controls it, retreats into his own end zone in an attempt to score a two-point return, then gets tackled before getting back to the goal line.

Several news and internet reports said that Thursday’s safety on the defense was just the fourth ever in college football. Amazingly, the only other known NCAA game to include the play was the 2004 Texas vs. Texas A&M game, and ESPN’s Brad Nessler called both that game and Thursday’s bowl game. A story listed an NAIA game and a junior-college game as others having the play.

One internet football writer named his blog “The One Point Safety” as a salute to the obscure play. It’s difficult to verify if in fact this has only happened four times, since the NCAA doesn’t keep a specific list. But common sense says it’s unlikely that it has happened often in the 25 years the rule has been in place.

Point to the Pipers

Which makes this fact interesting: This odd play happened in O’Shaughnessy Stadium, 12 years ago in the Tommies’ season finale. It went against UST in a victory over Hamline on Nov. 11, 2000.

The 2-7 Pipers were trying to upset the 6-3 Tommies, who were led by sophomore RB Jake Barkley and junior QB Nick Ambrasas. Trailing 13-0 in the second quarter, Hamline pulled off a 60-yard scoring pass. St. Thomas blocked the PAT, and a Tommie player instinctively tried to make a play happen. He ran backwards then sideways and was tackled in the south end zone.

One official made the safety signal, and the crew conferred and upheld the call. They eventually explained the play to UST coach Don Roney, that Hamline was awarded one point, to make the score 13-7. Roney, like virtually all the fans at O’Shaughnessy, had never heard of such a rule, and protested for several minutes.

Our Stat Crew in-game computer program helped clarify the situation. It had an entry for a safety off of a PAT play, and when clicked it gave the home team one point. That convinced me that the rule was indeed on the books. We told our assistants in the booth next door that the rule did exist and to relay word to the field.

Hamline tied the game in the third quarter but had its PAT kick blocked to keep the score 13-13. St. Thomas scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter but had its PAT try blocked. That was the fourth blocked kick on the day. UST held on to win by that 19-13 score.

A Wall Street Journal story, citing Stats Inc., says that since 1996 there have been just those two one-point safeties at the FBS level. In the last 17 seasons in major-college games, there have been 93 two-point returns by the defense along with 74,000 successful conversions.

The rule doesn’t apply in the NFL or in 48 of the 50 state high school federations.

Do any Tommies recall that November 2000 game? Does anyone remember who picked up the ball and was tackled in the end zone? I’m sure they would enjoy knowing they were part of the record books and trivia books.

I know the whereabouts of one guy from that Tommie defense, but he’s a little busy these days. Joe Fritze is serving his second tour overseas with the U.S. Army, currently stationed in Afghanistan.

We’re praying for Joe and his comrades. Certainly, the only safety that matters is theirs… and doesn’t involve a tackle in the end zone.


Here’s a video link to Thursday’s replay of the unique play -– note that the ref even calls it “an unusual” ruling:'sfeature=player_embedded&v=4yzcxyosmo8&utm_source=Len+Berman+Sports+List&utm_campaign=c361bc2109-LensTopFive_0104131_4_2013&utm_medium=email

The One-Point Safety Blog:


Gene McGivern

Sports information director Gene McGivern is working in his 18th season at St. Thomas and 24th in the MIAC. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at