RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Running back Nick Waldvogel burst up the middle late in the third quarter for a 10-yard touchdown run to lead No. 2 St. Thomas to a 25-7 victory over Wisconsin-River Falls in a rare night contest Thursday at Ramer Field.
Waldvogel, one of three Tommies to cross the goal line, was key for a St. Thomas team (2-0) that never seemed to find its groove amidst the eight penalties and two fumbles.
“Even though we weren’t playing well, we certainly still felt comfortable before that (Waldvogel) touchdown because of how well our defense was playing,” coach Glenn Caruso said.
Waldvogel, a freshman, sparked the Tommie offense coming out of halftime by rushing for 27 yards on four carries and catching a pass for 19 yards on the scoring drive.
“I just think the way the offensive line blocked, and how coach Caruso called the game, gave us opportunities to succeed,” Waldvogel said. “They make it easy for everyone to make plays.”
With only two collegiate games under Waldvogel’s belt, Caruso said he thinks the standout freshman will play a big role for the Tommies.
“He had some tough runs, some tough yards that really weren’t there, and he’s a wiggly little guy,” Caruso said about Waldvogel. “I think he’s really going to show up this year, and I’m just happy we have him for three more after that.”
Turnovers and penalties hurt St. Thomas throughout the game, consistently putting the Tommies in difficult situations, which Waldvogel said made putting together an offensive drive challenging.
“It definitely doesn’t help obviously, and it hurts the flow and rhythm of the offense,” Waldvogel said. “But as running backs, we need to be careful with our cutbacks so we don’t put our linemen in bad positions with bad leverage, which can lead to holding.”
In the first quarter, a 42-yard pass from quarterback Matt O’Connell to wide receiver Dan Ferrazzo set up wide receiver Dan Noehring’s touchdown on a double reverse from 19 yards out to give the Tommies an 8-0 lead after a two-point PAT conversion.
“On that first play, Matt threw a great ball; it was right on the money,” Ferrazzo said about his first play of the 2013 season. “It was just great to be back on the field. Nothing beats the feeling of coming out for your first game.”
After a 5-play, 43-yard drive, running back Jack Kaiser cut back on an outside run and evaded the Falcon defense to score for the Tommies, increasing their lead to 15-0. The Tommies finished the game with 438 total yards, and played tough defensively, only allowing 244.
“Even though we all know that was as ugly as we’ve played in some time, one thing that I’m happy with on offense, and defense, and the kicking game, is that we stayed aggressive throughout the whole game,” Caruso said.
Defensive back Sean Hamlin made a touchdown-saving tackle late in the first quarter and the Tommies shut the door on that Falcon drive. The St. Thomas defense proved too much for the Falcons, harassing sophomore quarterback Ryan Kusilek most of the night.
Kusilek connected with wide receiver Jake Ryan on a 4-yard touchdown pass for the Falcons’ (0-2) only score, which came in the second quarter.
“That kid’s a real big competitor,” Caruso said. “He’s a real neat quarterback.”
After Waldvogel’s first points for the Tommies, kicker Paul Graupner tied his career-long kick when he drilled a 42-yard field goal with 2:41 remaining in the fourth quarter.
St. Thomas will be back in action Sept. 21 in a clash against rival St. John’s University.
“It doesn’t matter who the next opponent is. We just have to get better,” Ferrazzo said. “A lot of people hype up that game, and it is a big game, but every game is a big game.”
Kyle Jonas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.