The 6-0 Tommies will take their high-powered offense to Hamline’s Klas Field, where the team racked up more than 60 points against the Pipers last year.
Hamline is coming off a 42-14 loss at Gustavus, bringing its record to 1-4. The team’s only win this year was a 49-30 victory over Macalester Oct. 2. The Pipers defense has given up more than 450 yards per game this year, the worst in the MIAC.
Hamline has been a cellar-dweller in the MIAC for the past decade, and this season looks to be no different. But St. Thomas Coach Glenn Caruso said the Pipers may be on the way up.
“Overall, I know their program has greatly improved in the last several years, whether or not it shows up in the stat line or on the record sheet so far,” Caruso said.
The Tommies are leading the MIAC with an average of 42.3 points per game this season, and have scored more than 50 points in two of the past three games. The Tommies also lead the conference in defense, giving up only 12.3 points per game.
Hamline’s strength this year has been its special teams play. The team has a dangerous return man in senior Alex House, and kicker John Broback has been solid in the kicking game. Both have been named MIAC special teams players of the week at different times this year.
“Their punter is a weapon,” Caruso said. “Their return man is a weapon. That has been one of the most successful components of their team this year.”
The Pipers are second in the MIAC in passing, averaging 261 passing yards per game (the Tommies average about 204 passing yards per game). Sophomore quarterback Adam Meyer tied a school passing record against Augsburg earlier this year by throwing for 375 yards on 46 attempts.
“They have a really nice trigger man at quarterback,” Caruso said. “They have a very controlled attack and do a very good job with it.”
The Hamline defense has had trouble getting the front seven to pressure opposing quarterbacks as the team has collected only four sacks this year. The Pipers have also had trouble protecting the quarterback this season, giving up a MIAC-worst 13 sacks. This spells trouble for the Pipers, as the Tommie defense has racked up 15 sacks so far this year, second only to Concordia-Moorhead in the MIAC.
The Hamline pass defense has gotten its share of turnovers, however. The team has seven interceptions this year, including two by sophomore Christian Willman that were both returned more than 80 yards for touchdowns.
Hamline has struggled in the second half of games this year. The team has given up 74 points in the first half of games, but surrendered 112 points after halftime, often giving up leads.
With such a strong start to the year, the Tommies want to make sure they don’t peak in the middle of the season. Although the Tommies overcame the “trap game” last Saturday against Augsburg, the game against Hamline this weekend could be another. But Caruso said he is confident his team is moving forward.
“As long as we can keep the attitudes of our kids consistent, controlling what we can control, then I don’t have to worry as a head coach about playing down to the level of our opponent,” Caruso said.
If the Tommies win this week, they will be 7-0 heading into next Saturday’s homecoming game against Bethel, the team St. Thomas shares the MIAC lead with.
Dan Cook can be reached at Cook9156@stthomas.edu.