By DOUG HENNES
Coach Glenn Caruso knew well what the scoreboard showed -– a 65-6 Homecoming win over Carleton on Saturday –- but he was more satisfied with the way his St. Thomas football team performed in one very tangible aspect of the game.
“I felt the best about how emotionally we played,” Caruso said. “The feeling on the sideline was ramped up from anything we have seen so far this year.”
And for good reason. The No. 6 Tommies (3-1, 1-1 MIAC) were coming off a wrenching 20-18 loss to archrival St. John’s on Sept. 21. Their 36-game regular-season winning streak was over and they had to wait two weeks to get back on the field.
But they wasted little time, after an early turnover, in asserting themselves behind backup quarterbacks John Gould and Alex Fenske, who subbed for an ill Matt O’Connell. The Knights fell to 2-2 (1-1) as Caruso picked up his 60th win early in his sixth year at St. Thomas.
It was a record-setting win, too. The 65 points were the most in modern-day St. Thomas football, eclipsing 63-point outputs against Augsburg (1989), Hamline (2009) and St. John’s (2011). The 697 yards of total offense topped the school record of 636 yards last year against UW-River Falls.
Nine players figured in the scoring, six with touchdowns, and a defense that Caruso called “ferocious” was just as effective. St. Thomas intercepted three Carleton passes and held the Knights to 153 yards (29 on the ground) and 2 of 12 third-down chances.
The game got off to an uncertain start for the Tommies when Gould threw an interception on their third play from scrimmage. Carleton returned the ball to the St. Thomas 30, but four plays later Rutger Heffelfinger tipped a pass and fellow linebacker Tremayne Williams snagged the ball.
“I just happened to be in the right spot,” said Williams, who also had two tackles for loss for 15 yards. “We wanted to come in with a lot of energy of defense today, and it paid off.”
Taking over at his 13, Gould made no mistakes on the next drive. The sophomore from St. Thomas Academy ripped off a 66-yard run to the Carleton 24, and two plays later running back Brenton Braddock scored from six yards out. Holder Dan Ferrazzo ran in the after-point snap for an 8-0 lead.
“It was a draw the whole way,” Gould said of his run. “I took a couple of steps back to make it look like a pass and then took off. I kind of ran out of gas at the end.”
Gould stayed in for two more first-quarter series, which culminated on short touchdown runs by Nick Waldvogel and Dominic Truoccolo and a 21-0 lead, before turning the ball over to Alex Fenske. The sophomore from Marshall was just as efficient as Gould, helping the Tommies put 16 more points on the board for a 37-0 cushion.
“I just had to come in and keep the train rolling,” said Fenske, who made the first varsity appearance of his college career. He was perfect on the half’s final drive, a 94-yard march, hitting all five of his passes to different receivers for first downs before running the ball in from the 3.
“I was able to get into a nice rhythm on that drive,” he said. “The line blocked tremendously and gave me the time to get the ball to the receivers. Everybody made my job easy.”
Caruso planned all along to split the quarterback time between Gould and Fenske.
“Both quarterbacks have tremendously bright futures, and as you could see today, we needed them. “It’s nice when your No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks take over and perform as well as they did.”
O’Connell felt the same way, calling the efforts by his replacements “phenomenal.”
The Tommies' backup QB to start the year, fifth-year senior Ben Duncan, suffered a season-ending knee injury last month in practice, giving more practice reps to Gould and Fenske.
St. Thomas collected 389 offensive yards in the half to 82 for Carleton, including 77 on the ground from Braddock. His big run came when the Tommies, up 24-0, had the ball at their 41. He took the handoff from Fenske and ran 59 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown, with several Knights on his heels most of the way.
“The run was meant to go up the gut for maybe five or six yards,” Braddock said. “Dom (Truoccolo) took out the middle linebacker and I saw a crease on the outside. Dan (Ferrazzo) and Matt (Allen) did a good job of escorting me into the end zone.”
The second half was more of the same. Carleton foiled St. Thomas’ opening drive by stopping a fourth-down run after a fake field goal attempt, but the Tommies scored rushing touchdowns on their next four drives to go up 65-0.
Gould led the first two drives, which culminated in back-to-back touchdown runs of three and four yards by Jack Kaiser. Fenske relieved Gould again and moved the Tommies to their final two scores -– a one-yard run by Waldvogel and a three-yard run by Garrett Engelhardt.
Carleton spoiled the shutout by scoring with five minutes left in the game on a nine-play, 54-yard drive. The Tommies committed two 15-yard penalties, one on the kickoff return and another early in the drive, and finished with 10 red flags for 95 yards.
St. Thomas goes on the road for three of its next four games, beginning Oct. 12 at Gustavus Adolphus. The Gusties (3-1, 1-1) routed Hamline 52-7 in St. Paul on Saturday and also have wins over Simpson, 28-21, and St. Olaf, 45-19. Their only loss, 19-16, was on the road at second-place Augsburg.
Other winners Saturday in the MIAC were undefeated and fifth-ranked Bethel, 31-28 over Augsburg, and St. John’s, which blanked St. Olaf 31-0. Concordia, tied for first with Bethel at 4-0, had a bye. Four teams, including St. Thomas, have only one loss.
Freshman Nick Waldvogel (2) had 96 rushing/receiving yards on 16 touches. (Mark Brown photo)
Jack Gilliand (4) (Mark Brown photo)
Brenton Braddock scored his 18th and 19th career TDs. (Mark Brown photo)
Glenn Caruso won his 60th game at UST in his 69th contest here. (Mark Brown photo)
Walter Franklin (14) and Josh Carey (28) corral the Knights' QB. (Mark Brown photo)