Gene's Blog: A December to remember for Tommie FB
December 06, 2011
Colin Tobin joined the 50-TD Club with two more last Saturday. (Greg Smith photo)
As the driver of a 2009 Lexus -- the actual vehicle formerly owned by a Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Lujack -- I'm authorized to use the slogan and make this prediction: This will be a “December to remember” for the unbeaten St. Thomas football team.
The 13-0 Tommies are preparing for the program’s biggest game in 63 years. Coach Glenn Caruso travels to Whitewater, Wis., for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. national semifinal playoff test against the top-ranked Warhawks (13-0). The winner advances to a Friday Dec. 16 NCAA title game in Salem, Va., against the Mount Union-Wesley victor.
Here are some fun facts swirling around Tommie football:
Saturday’s game will be televised locally by WUCW channel 23 -– the widest televised event in school history. The game also will have a worldwide webcast/telecast on ESPN3.com, plus the Upper Midwest live radio broadcast on WCCO 830 AM.
This showdown marks the first time Tommie football will play a No. 1-ranked team since D3Football.com began its weekly rankings in 2003. UW-Whitewater has won 43 consecutive games (25 in a row at home) and it is five wins shy of breaking Oklahoma’s NCAA all-division record of 47 consecutive victories.
St. Thomas has won 38 of its last 41 games. Over the last two seasons, UST is 25-1, including a 9-0 record outside the MIAC and a 10-0 record in road games.
St. Thomas football has only played one later game on the calendar – its 1948 team was invited to Tampa, Fla., for the Cigar Bowl, where it played Missouri Valley to a 13-13 tie on Jan. 1, 1949… The grandfather of Tommie senior standout linebacker Willy Baregi, Bill Andersen, played on that Cigar Bowl team.
(Click here for 2009 Tommiesports.com story: http://www.tommiesports.com/ftbl/news/archives/2009/Willy-Bill_12-3.html)
Tommie assistant coach Wallie Kuchinski is one of three national finalists in Division III for the Defensive Coordinator of the Year Award. He’s on the ballot with Whitewater’s Brian Borland and Cal Lutheran’s Clay Richardson.
Click here to see more: http://www.footballscoop.com/coaching-awards/2011-coaches-of-the-year/2011-division-iii-coordinator-of-the-year
Kuchinski and his defensive staff have helped build one of Division III’s elite units. St. Thomas graduated six senior starters from a solid 2010 defense, and lost three other starters during 2011 to season-ending injuries. UST’s defense has allowed just five touchdowns in its last nine games and leads all NCAA teams in rushing defense at 47.8 ypg. The unit has 105 tackles for loss; a school-record 47 sacks; has held teams to just 20 percent on third-down conversions; have forced a 3-and-out and punt 67 times; have 15 different players record a sack; 11 different players have an interception; and 10 different players have a forced fumble or fumble recovery.
Coach Glenn Caruso was announced today as one of five finalists for Division III National Coach of the Year by Liberty Mutual. Caruso won the award in 2010.
Senior WR-KR Fritz Waldvogel was announced today as one of four national finalists for the Gagliardi Trophy as the Most Outstanding Player in D-III football. It’s the first time in the award’s 17-year run that a Tommie player has made the third and final ballot. Waldvogel earlier was announced Conference Player of the Year for the second time in his career -– a feat only one other MIAC individual has accomplished.
Senior LB Tony Danna was named West Region Defensive Player of the Year by D3Football.com. In all, eight Tommies were honored as All-Region. First-team honorees were Waldvogel (WR and KR); Chapman and Curtis James, OL; and Tim Albright, PK. Second-team picks were Colin Tobin, RB, Garrett Maloney, P; and Danny Kane, DL. Chinni Oji made third-team as CB.
Senior OT Dan Chapman recently was named the Mike Stam recipient as the conference’s top lineman (offense or defense). He’s UST’s first winner of that award in 15 seasons.
Waldvogel (3.60 gpa, Finance), Chapman (3.88 gpa, Poly Sci/Econ), senior PK Tim Albright (3.68, Biochemistry) and junior LB Kyle Mulrooney (3.96 in Finance and Business Law) are all on the national ballot for CoSIDA Academic All-America consideration.
Waldvogel will start his 50th game next Saturday -– a feat few Division III players have accomplished. He’s caught at least one pass in all 49 games thus far, and has 46 touchdowns. He needs eight receptions to hit 300 on his career.
Did You Know?
In 49 games of the Glenn Caruso era, St. Thomas has six losses -– two in overtime, and others by margins of one, three, five and 11 points. UST has won its last 36 games when scoring 21 or more points.
Better Each Season
Caruso has accomplished something few college football coaches can claim. In his six seasons as a head coach he's improved his team's victory total each season. He inherited a Macalester program that was 0-9 the previous fall and guided the Scots to records of 2-7 then 4-5. He took over a St. Thomas program coming off a 2-8 season and has posted records of 7-3, 11-2, 12-1 and 13-0 in four seasons at UST.
In eight NCAA playoff games over the last three seasons, St. Thomas has only allowed a total of 20 points in the second halves of the game.
St. Thomas is assured of a top-three NCAA football finish for the first time in school history. UST joins a select group of Division III institutions to have top-three NCAA team finishes in 13 different sports.
UST has won 14 NCAA team titles in the sports of men’s and women’s cross country; men’s and women’s basketball; baseball and softball and men’s indoor track and field. Tommie teams also have posted 11 national runner-up finishes in cross country, men’s hockey, baseball, softball, and women’s outdoor track, and taken third in women’s soccer, men’s outdoor track and wrestling.
St. Thomas joins St. John’s and Bethel as fellow conference teams to reach the Division III football Final Four in the last decade. No other Division III conference since 2000 has sent three different schools to the national football semifinals.
Two dynamic senior running backs from the same suburban Chicago neighborhood will square off next Saturday. UW-Whitewater All-America running back Levell Coppage (105 toucdowns, 7,594 career rushing yards) graduated from Oak Park High, while St. Thomas' Colin Tobin (50 touchdowns, 3,654 career rushing yards) played at Fenwick High, just nine blocks away.
St. Thomas All-Region duo of Chapman and Albright grew up a few miles apart in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale. Chapman went to Johnson High, while Albright went to rival high school Urbandale.
Albright came to St. Thomas for soccer but was cut during tryouts. He came out for football that spring and made the 2009 team as a backup on placements and the starter on kickoffs. He’s made 84 consecutive PATs since one was blocked in October 2010 (61-of-61 this season). His 155 career points are the most ever by a Tommie kicker.
Chapman, a CoSIDA Academic All-American, almost didn’t play college football. The 6-6, 270-pounder was concerned that football would interfere with his academic and campus interests. A summer 2008 meeting with Caruso inspired him, he came out to play, and broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2009. UST has lost just three games in those three seasons, and Chapman and his linemates have helped produce 32 100-yard rushing games in that span.
The Tommies will look to continue an unusual record in weekend competition. Over the last two seasons, UST football (25-1) and men's basketball (14-0) are a combined 39-1 on Saturdays and Sundays.
Did You Know?
Over the last three years, St. Thomas men’s teams are a combined 29-10 in NCAA playoff games in football (7-2) and baseball (13-6), and men's basketball (9-2). Last year, St. Thomas became the first conference school in 73 seasons to win the MIAC team crowns in football, men’s basketball and baseball in the same school year.
The Tommies are 4-0 against Wisconsin teams under Caruso. That reversed an eight-game losing streak to Badger state teams from 1992-2003.
The Last Time…
Waldvogel was seven weeks old and Caruso was a high school junior the last time the Tommies played football at UW-Whitewater. In a 1990 first-round NCAA playoff game on the Warhawks’ campus, UST scored a 24-23 victory. Gary Trettel rushed 47 times for 232 yards to lead the upset. UST took a 14-0 halftime lead and held on as the Warhawks missed a tying PAT kick with under 4:00 left.
OK, so you still don’t believe that part about me driving Johnny Lujack’s old car. Johnny went to Notre Dame, played quarterback, won the 1947 Heisman, came to my hometown, Davenport, with his wife Pat, and joined on to work with his father-in-law, Frank Schierbrock, who sold Chevrolets. The Lujack-Schierbrock name is legendary back home, and Johnny sold enough to one day buy a Lexus dealership.
One of my six brothers, Joe, works in sales in what was then called Lujack’s Lexus. He set me up two years ago on a sweet trade-in with only 2,600 miles, driven only on Sundays in Palm Springs… by Johnny’s wife, Pat.
So not only do I have a Heisman Trophy car to go with my trophy wife, I also get to document a Gagliardi Trophy finalist. Yes, it’s a December to remember in more ways than one around Tommie football.