Tommie football enjoyed a magical 2011 season. Its 13-1 finish included a school-record victory total, a trip to the national playoff semifinals, plus a second consecutive 10-0 regular season. The latter feat had never been achieved in 90 years of MIAC football.
The Toms' balanced, shut-down defense was somewhat overshadowed by an offense that had four All-America honorees, led by dynamic Fritz Waldvogel and Colin Tobin.
The defense rewrote a couple of school records, and Wallie Kuchinski was named the 2011 Division III Defensive Coordinator of the Year by the FootballScoop.com website. The Toms held five opposing offenses without TDs and held five other teams to 10 or fewer points. Despite losing three starters to season-ending injuries in 2011, the Tommie "D" set a school record for sacks (49); had 111 tackles for loss; and got interceptions or fumbles from 19 different players.
The Toms also faced several skilled QBs, including two -- Whitewater's Matt Blanchard (Bears) and Monmouth's Alex Tanney (Chiefs) -- who are now in NFL training camps. They faced four of Division III's top-10 ranked quarterbacks in passing efficiency.
It turns out that the 2011 Toms ranked in the top five among all 646 NCAA football programs in five different defensive statistical categories:
--Third-down conversions: St. Thomas ranked first in NCAA football as it allowed a stingy 21.95% rate of third-down conversions. D-II's New Mexico Highlands (22.00%), FCS teams Jackson State (23.53%) and Texas Southern (23.62%), and FBS champion Alabama (24.4%) rounded out the top five.
--Scoring defense: St. Thomas ranked third among NCAA teams that played a full season schedule as it allowed just 10.14 ppg. Alabama (8.15 ppg), Mount Union (8.67 ppg), UST. Colorado-Pueblo (10.33 ppg) and LSU (11.29 ppg) held the top five spots.
--Rushing defense: St. Thomas ranked first among NCAA teams that played a full season schedule, as it allowed just 56.7 ypg. Shepherd (W.V.) (63.91 ypg), Alabama (72.15 ypg) and Mount Union (75.00 ypg) rounded out the top four.
--Total defense: St. Thomas ranked fourth among all NCAA teams in total defensive yards allowed per game at 216.50. Alabama (183.62 ypg), Mount Union (203.27) and Lycoming (214.40) ranked just ahead of the Toms.
--Sacks: St. Thomas' 48 sacks were tied for second most in NCAA football. Texas A&M recorded 51, while UST, Wayne (Mich.) State and Stephen F. Austin each had 48.
In addition, four postseason games helped St. Thomas football play the seventh toughest schedule in Division III in 2011, according to NCAA statistics.
The Toms' lone defeat was on the road to the eventual NCAA champion (UW-Whitewater). They played three conference champions, two runners-up, and two third-place teams. Those seven teams had a combined 68-13 record. Only four of St. Thomas' 14 opponents had losing records.
UST's 2012 schedule will start out even tougher, with three road games in the first four games, including tests at UW-Eau Claire and St. John's.
Fritz Tops 300 Again
Fritz Waldvogel continues his bid to win MVP honors in the German Football League. The 2012 UST graduate caught TD passes of 28, 20 and 36 yards -- including a dive to the end zone shown at right -- and finished with 316 all-purpose yards on 15 touches in Saturday's 55-20 victory for the first-place Schwabisch Hall Unicorns over the Wiesbaden Phantoms.
Since Waldvogel joined the squad in late May, the Unicorns are 6-0 and averaging 57 ppg in their bid to repeat as league champions.
Waldvogel has collected 18 touchdowns and 1,617 all-purpose yards in six games. He leads the GFL in scoring per game, all-purpose yards per game and reception yards per game.
Next up for Schwabisch Hall is Aug. 4 at home against the Marburg Mercenaries, one of six remaining games before the playoffs begin Sept. 22. The GFL championship game is set for Oct. 10, just a few days after Waldvogel's 22nd birthday.
Kudos to Joe Sweeney and Steve Mathre's track and field teams. In the individual academic awards announced last week by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), St. Thomas had the third most honorees in Division III with 10 women and eight men.
UW-LaCrosse (20 honorees), MIT (19), St. Thomas and UW-Eau Claire (each 18), and North Central (Ill.) (16) ranked first through fifth.
The elite honor went to athletes with a 3.30 or higher cumulative gpa and who also either competed at indoor/outdoor nationals or were ranked in the top 35 in Division III in their events (top 25 relay).
The University of Minnesota is rebuilding Siebert Field this year and expects to debut a new baseball facility on the site in 2013.
It's not the only big baseball project in the Midwest. Omaha just started demolition of Rosenblatt Stadium as it builds a new field to host the Division I College World Series.
St. Thomas baseball doesn't have anything so grand on its docket, but a new purple paint job has spruced up the scoreboard at Koch Diamond. Let's hope the work crew paints the scoreboard as well as Chris Olean's pitchers paint the corners each spring.