Six different players scored for No. 3-ranked St. Thomas as the visiting Tommies defeated Concordia-Moorhead 48-30, improving to 4-0.
The Concordia-Moorhead Cobbers came into the game averaging 267.7 rushing yards per game, but the Tommies held the Cobbers to just 52 yards. St. Thomas ran the ball 50 times got and 70-plus yards from both Colin Tobin and freshman Aaron Terrell-Byrd.
“We pounded the ball really efficiently and really effectively,” coach Glenn Caruso said. “Probably for the first time all year it really felt good. Just really warming the heart to be able to pound the ball like that.”
Before Saturday, the Cobbers had run the ball almost twice as much as they had thrown it, but quarterback Michael Dunham threw 41 passes against the Tommies, accounting for 329 yards and two touchdowns. Most of Dunham’s completions came on short out routes.
“If a team is trying to run outs on us all day we just say ‘go ahead,’ although after a while it just gets a bit annoying,” junior cornerback Chinni Oji said. “We just had to try to keep everything in front of us.”
On the first drive of the game, Concordia-Moorhead connected on a 76-yard touchdown play when Dunham hit senior Chris Gilson on a slant across the middle. Gilson, who only had four catches for 42 yards prior to today’s game, burned the Tommie secondary just 1:26 into the contest.
The Tommies answered back on their first drive when senior running back Colin Tobin continued his impressive touchdown streak, scoring on a three-yard run to tie the game at 7-7. Tobin came into the game with eight touchdowns, tied for the Division-III lead, and added two to that total.
Senior Fritz Waldvogel, last week’s MIAC special teams player of the week, gave the Tommies a 14-7 lead in the first quarter when the 5-foot-9-inch wide receiver caught a 42-yard Dakota Tracy pass over two Cobber defenders in the end zone.
“It was kind of a broken play almost,” Waldvogel said. “Dakota kind of rolled out made a great throw, and I just went up and made a catch over a couple of guys.”
On the first play of the next Cobber drive, Oji intercepted a Dunham pass intended for Bronson Shepherd for his team-high second pick of the season.
“I just broke on the slant, and I saw the ball in the air and just jumped on it,” Oji said. “I give all the props to the coaches. I saw the ball and just attacked it.”
Oji’s interception led to a Tracy touchdown after the quarterback scrambled into the end zone for a five-yard score. The Tommies led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter began with a long Cobber drive that went all the way to the Tommie red zone. Senior linebacker Willy Baregi picked up his first sack of the season to set-up a third and long for the Cobbers, and sophomore Winter Cullen made an interception from his knees to halt the Cobber’s momentum.
Nearing the end of the second quarter, Tracy faked the screen pass to Waldvogel and went deep to sophomore wide receiver Dan Noehring for a 56-yard touchdown to give the Tommies a 28-7 advantage. Tracy connected on 11 of 18 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
“The most impressive part about that was Dakota threw it on time and was able to him him in stride,” Caruso said. “That really shows a lot of confidence because when the ball came out of Dakota’s hands, Dan wasn’t wide open yet.”
With less than two minutes left in the first half, the Cobbers drove 75-yards for a touchdown, converting on fourth down once to keep the drive alive. Dunham found junior fullback Brett Baune for the 17-yard score, his first touchdown reception of the season and the first second quarter touchdown the Tommies have allowed all season. The Cobbers’ late touchdown cut the Tommies’ lead to 28-14 heading into halftime.
Tommies use ‘west coast’ offense in second half
The Tommies opened the second half with the ball and put together an 11-play, 64-yard drive that Tobin capped off with a leaping goal-line touchdown.
On the following kickoff, St. Thomas reached into its bag of tricks when kicker Tim Albright recovered his own onside kick, giving the Tommies the ball in great field position.
Freshman running back Ryan Toney cashed in on the recovery, faking the reverse to Waldvogel for a five-yard touchdown run, his first as a Tommie.
There was less than five minutes left in the third quarter when Concordia ran its first offensive play of the second half.
St. Thomas pulled ahead 48-14 at the end of the third quarter when the 5-foot-five-inch Terrell-Byrd scored the first touchdown of his career from four yards out. Byrd had only carried the ball four times coming into Saturday’s game but carried the ball on six straight plays for 42 yards on that drive.
“I’m not going to lie, I was getting a little winded, but practice is going to get my conditioning up,” Terrell-Byrd said. “I owe it to my line, but to get into that end zone was great.”
The Tommies young backs could give new meaning to the term ‘west coast offense.’ Terrell-Byrd and Toney are both from California.
“We live like an hour and a half away from each other in California but didn’t know nothing about each other,” Terrell-Byrd said. “It’s been great. Having a fellow person from California is really kind of bringing it home.”
The fourth quarter began with the Cobbers’ slicing into the Tommies’ lead when Dunham used his scrambling ability to score on a 15-yard quarterback-keeper.
“(Dunham) could scramble really well,” Oji said. “He could just move around, but we held him enough.”
Dunham completed 26-41 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns, but the Tommies held him to -19 yards rushing.The Cobbers elected to go for the two-point conversion and converted to make the score 48-22.
Concordia-Moorhead scored again near the end of the fourth quarter when the 250-pound Baune rumbled into the end zone for a one-yard score. The Cobbers connected on a pass for the two-point conversion to make it a 48-30 game, but many of the players in at this point for the Tommies were not the game’s starters.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in giving up 30 points, but it gives us a chance to grow and learn from our mistakes,” senior linebacker Tony Danna said. “We don’t make the same mistakes twice.”
Check back for more photos of the game.
Alex Keil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org