Tuesday Talk is a weekly news and notes feature of Tommiesports.com
Tommiesports.com previously noted a statistical aspect of the 2017 Tommie Football season that was sensational: UST's 21.9 net rushing yards allowed per game were the fewest allowed by any NCAA football team (all four levels) in one season in the last 16 years.
That included an average 0.7 yards per rush stat -- a total that ranks with the best in the last 50 seasons at any NCAA level.
A deeper dive into all NCAA teams revealed an even more impressive statistic: This St. Thomas defense's 157.6 total yards allowed per game were the fewest allowed by any NCAA team in one season in the last 20 years. It was 50 yards better this season than the next closest team.
The defense led the Tommies to an 8-0 MIAC championship run and an 11-2 overall record capped by a 24-10 loss on the road in the national quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Two of the Crusaders' three TDs were scored by their defense and special teams. The Tommies finished No. 4 in both final Division III polls.
Here's another sweet feat: In three games this fall against teams ranked in the top 15 nationally -- Mary Hardin-Baylor (14-1), St. John's (9-2) and Berry (11-1) -- the Tommies allowed a combined total of minus-one net rushing yard on 65 attempts. In their other games, UMHB averaged 165 rushing yards; the Johnnies averaged 233; while Berry averaged 185.
UMHB's 143 total yards against the Toms rank as its lowest one-game total in the 20-year history of its program, one yard below its total in Friday night's 12-0 Stagg Bowl loss to Mount Union.
The Toms also finished in the top two this season among all NCAA teams in these defensive categories:
- fewest first downs allowed (1st, 8.4 per game);
- tackles for loss per game (2nd, 11.2);
- third-down conversion rate allowed (2nd, .203).
Four St. Thomas players received All-America honors last week: junior center Matt Beck; and seniors Austin Jochum (DL), Isaac Seering (S) and Matt Christenson (TE).
2017 NCAA Leaders/Fewest Yards Allowed Per Game
St. Thomas (D-III) 156.7
St. John's (D-III) 207.0
NW Missouri State (D-II) 212.8
Mary Hardin-Baylor (D-III) 223.0
2017 NCAA Leaders/Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game
St. Thomas (D-III) 21.9
Central Washington (D-II) 44.6
Mary Hardin-Baylor (D-III) 50.7
Brockport State (D-III) 54.0
McNeese State (FCS) 54.5
Tommie Defense Yards Allowed Per Game
Glenn Caruso era
2017: 156.7 ypg**
- Women's Basketball (15th/11th)
- Football (4th/4th, tied for fifth place in nation);
- Men's Soccer (6th, tied for fifth place in nation);
- Men's Golf (4th/4th);
- Women's Hockey (8th);
- Women's Swim-Dive (14th);
- Men's Swim-Dive (21st);
- Volleyball (25th, tied for 33rd place in nation);
- Women's Golf (26th, GolfStat);
- Women's Cross Country (30th, placed 22nd in nation).
St. Thomas (4-5 overall, 2-2 MIAC) improved to 2-0 at home on the season with a 14-point defeat of Gustavus last Wednesday. UST fell to 1-5 on the road last Saturday with a 70-66 loss at UW-Stevens Point. Coach John Tauer's team resumes play Jan. 3 at Macalester.
St. Thomas' five losses, all on the road, have come against teams with a combined 30-12 record. The Toms start January with six of their first nine on the road, too.
Senior guard Tyler Potts has quickly emerged as a 3-point threat. In two seasons on the varsity, the Dubuque, Iowa, native had logged just 11 minutes of court time in six games before scoring 11, 11 and 20 points in his last three contests, including a 12-of-24 clip from 3-point range.
No. 15-ranked St. Thomas (7-2 overall, 3-0 MIAC) split two games last week. Coach Ruth Sinn's team won 74-66 at No. 12-ranked Gustavus in an early showdown of ranked teams, but lost 77-72 at home Saturday to a hot-shooting Luther squad.
St. Thomas plays Dec. 29-30 in Wisconsin Dells against UW-La Crosse (7-2) and Lake Forest (4-4), and resumes MIAC play Jan. 3 at home against Macalester.
The Tommies have won 50 of their last 51 games over parts of three seasons when they allow under 67 points -- the lone loss 60-57 to Tufts in the March 2017 national semifinal game.
The Toms rank in the top 10 nationally in 3-point percentage (40.0%) and free-throw percentage (78%), and sit in the top 20 in field-goal proficiency (46%).
St. Thomas resumes play Jan. 5-6 in the Nichols (Mass.) tournament. Nichols' head coach is ex-St. Thomas standout player and assistant coach Parker Burgess, now in his third season. He's guided the Bison to 17 and 15 wins in his first two seasons.
UST (6-3-1) faces Nichols (7-5-2) on Friday Jan. 5, and plays on Jan. 6 against either Elmira (6-6-1) or Connecticut College (3-4). UST's four-game win streak is the fifth longest current string in D-III.
Out of 81 teams nationally, St. Thomas ranks in the top 20 in scoring defense but sits in the bottom 20 in scoring offense.
St. Thomas (8-3-1) leads all NCAA women's hockey teams in penalty kills at 95.7 percent (44 of 46). UST ranks in the top 15 in D-III in scoring defense with 20 goals allowed in 12 games.
St. Thomas will head to Florida next week for a training trip. The Tommie contingent will trade in single-digit high temperatures in Minnesota for highs in the upper 70s in West Palm Beach.