Despite throwing three interceptions, junior quarterback Ben Duncan led the fourth-ranked St. Thomas football team to a 51-9 conference victory over Hamline University. Duncan threw and ran in for two separate touchdowns and scored off a 13-yard pass from junior wide receiver Kyle Whitley Saturday at Klas Field.
The Tommies survived a sloppy second quarter that included five interceptions, four by the Pipers.
Coach Glenn Caruso said he felt a lack of focus contributed to the numerous turnovers throughout the game.
“Some of those (turnovers) are nervousness,” Caruso said. “On game day, we just have to make some smarter decisions and understand not every play is going to be there, if it’s not there let’s put it in a different spot.”
Duncan said he wasn’t happy about the number of turnovers but believes it isn’t something he can’t fix.
“(There’s) nothing I can’t improve on,” Duncan said. “We’ll be better next week, (and) I’ll be better next week.”
St. Thomas scored its first touchdown when sophomore quarterback Matt O’Connell completed a 10-yard pass to senior tight end Logan Marks on a second-and-goal play in the first quarter.
The Tommies completed 21 out of 36 passes throughout the game, totalling 268 passing yards.
The first quarter ended with St. Thomas up 7-0.
St. Thomas extended its lead in the second quarter on O’Connell’s 7-yard pass to Marks, giving their team a 14-0 edge.
Marks said the team contributed to his success in scoring two touchdowns in the game.
“I just tried to run my route, tried to get open,” Marks said. “I was lucky the protection was there. (Our) offensive line blocked really well, and Matt O’Connell threw two great balls.”
Senior kicker John Broback put Hamline on the board with a 10-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Sophomore running back Zach Deitchman scored Hamline’s first touchdown with 1:44 to play in the first half, but the Tommies blocked the extra-point kick, making the score 14-9.
Duncan took over in the second quarter when O’Connell left with a leg injury.
O’Connell said that he didn’t re-enter the game because he wanted to get his leg checked out.
“I just got a pulled muscle in my leg,” O’Connell said. “Hopefully it will heal up this week and I’ll be ready to go next week, but we’ll take it one day at a time.”
O’Connell was disappointed he had to sit out and watch from the sidelines but felt his team played a great game despite his absence.
“I always want to be in there” O’Connell said. “You don’t really realize it until you get pulled out how fortunate you are to be playing, but those guys did a great job.”
Duncan scored his first touchdown as a Tommie, rushing to the end zone on a first-and-goal seconds before the half ended. Hamline broke up the two-point conversion, giving St. Thomas a 20-9 lead.
St. Thomas finished with 284 rushing yards while Hamline complied 65.
The Tommies carried their same fire into the second half with a touchdown by junior tight end Matt Allen off of a trick play, putting them 26-9 over the Pipers. A successful extra point extended St. Thomas’ lead to 18 points.
The Tommies continued to surge ahead in the third quarter through their strong offense with a field goal by freshman kicker Paul Graupner, adding three more points.
Heading into the fourth quarter, junior wide receiver Kyle Whitley threw a left-handed pass to Duncan for another Tommie touchdown. Graupner had yet another successful kick, lifting St. Thomas 37-9 over Hamline early in the fourth quarter.
With 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, freshman running back Dominic Truoccolo ran the ball into the end zone, scoring his first touchdown of the game. Graupner had another successful kick, extending his team’s lead to 44-9.
Freshman running back Jack Kaiser scored a touchdown off of a 77-yard run for St. Thomas with 1:12 remaining in the game.
Caruso believes that the key to the Tommies’ next game is getting crucial players back on the field.
“I think there’s a rhythm, (and) you can see that rhythm and focus that we have when we have the majority of our starters in,” Caruso said.
St. Thomas takes on Augsburg College on Saturday, Oct. 27, at home.
Sean Crotty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.