Video by Cole Trace
SLIDESHOW: Chief Photo Editor Josh Kleven captured all of Saturday's action in addition to moments like Ben Wartman's celebration after the junior scored his fourth touchdown of the day. (Josh Kleven/TommieMedia)
Ben Wartman’s four touchdowns helped St. Thomas top Gustavus 45-12 Saturday afternoon at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. The win moved the Tommies to 4-0 on the season.
St. Thomas racked up 496 yards in total offense, including 272 on the ground. Wartman rushed for 107 yards and was complimented in the backfield by sophomore Colin Tobin’s 73 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Tommie defense held Gustavus to just 92 rushing yards and 248 total yards.
St. Thomas remains undefeated in the conference and sits on top of the MIAC standings with St. John’s.
“It means a lot for us to be on top of the MIAC,” said senior defensive back Kris Kopp. “We’ve put in the hard work.”
Gustavus strikes first
Gustavus intercepted sophomore quarterback Greg Morse on the opening drive and after a fourth down conversion early in the drive, freshman kicker Tom Huepenbecker drilled a 44-yard field goal to give Gustavus a 3-0 lead.
The Tommies answered back with a nine-play, 70-yard drive, working down the field with completions to sophomore Fritz Waldvogel and junior Nick Gleisner. Wartman capped the drive off with a 9-yard touchdown run, giving the Tommies a 7-3 lead.
But Gustavus struck back with a 67-yard strike to senior receiver Cam Maurer. The long completion set up a 24-yard Huepenbecker field goal to cut St. Thomas’ lead to just 7-6.
St. Thomas opens up its lead
The Tommies’ ensuing possession started to stall. So on fourth and two in its own territory, coach Glenn Caruso went for it. Wartman got the first on a 3-yard run and after a 48-yard hookup from Morse to Waldvogel, St. Thomas stretched its lead to 14-6.
St. Thomas’ next possession was highlighted by an 18-yard run by sophomore quarterback Dakota Tracy, setting up a 4-yard Wartman touchdown run putting St. Thomas up 21-6.
Gustavus responded quickly, as Becker burned safety Brady Ervin for a 58-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Maurer. Junior Cyrus Allen blocked the extra point and the Tommies retained a 21-12 lead.
St. Thomas then turned to the air and after a series of bubble screens to Waldvogel and a 21-yard completion to senior Tony Margarit, the Tommies worked its way into the red zone. On fourth down, St. Thomas faked a field goal and senior A.C. Cloutier nearly hooked up with senior Jake Friederichs for a touchdown, but the pass was broken up.
Tommie offense gets rolling in second half
On the first play of the second half, junior defensive back Kirk Baglien intercepted a Becker pass and returned it 39 yards into Gustie territory. Morse then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Wartman to give the Tommies a 28-12 lead.
“It’s all about the scheme,” Wartman said. “Coach Caruso makes perfect play calls.”
Huepenbecker missed a 42-yard field on Gustavus’ next possession. But then St. Thomas turned the ball back over the following play as Kruckeberg intercepted a Morse pass.
But a lurking Kopp got St. Thomas the ball back as he promptly intercepted Gustavus on the Gustie’s very next play.
“They tried to run a trick play, and I stayed on top,” Kopp said. “We knew they were going to take a shot on us after the momentum changed.”
St. Thomas closes the door
Wartman scored his fourth touchdown of the day on an 18-yard scamper to put the Tommies up 35-12. A 36-yard Waldvogel run helped set up Tobin’s 2-yard touchdown run to put St. Thomas ahead 42-12.
“It’s about our line,” Wartman said.
A late field goal by freshman Tim Albright made the final score 45-12. The win keeps the Tommies on pace with the Johnnies, who beat Bethel Saturday 16-14 on a late field goal.
St. Thomas will now prepare for a homecoming game against Concordia-Moorhead this Saturday, Oct. 10.
“It’s gonna be tough,” Wartman said. “They have a physical defense.”
Danny Grimmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org