St. Thomas enters 2014 at number 14 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 8-2 (6-2) Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
St. Thomas football suffered only two losses last season – but suffer they did. Both losses (one to St. John’s week three, and one at Bethel week six) were decided in the final minute of play, and both were by a touchdown or less. These two losses were the reason St. Thomas missed the playoffs in what has to be called a down-year for them, after they lost in the Stagg Bowl in 2012, came in third in the tournament in 2011, and advanced the Quarterfinals in 2009 and 2010.
Despite the playoff-absence, there were a lot of positives in Minneapolis last season. The Tommies’ defense finished first in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in rushing yards allowed (77.9 ypg), total yards allowed (261.6 ypg), points allowed (14.3 ppg), and sacks (27), while the offense managed 444.5 yards and 34 points per game, despite losing starting QB Matt O’Connell to a broken leg halfway through the season. They finished third in the MIAC with an 8-2 overall record.
– Jason Flesher OL – First team All-MIAC
– Riley Dombek DT – First team All-MIAC, 20 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 5 QBH
– Harry Pitera LB – First team All-MIAC, 35 tackles, 8 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 FFs, 1 FR
– Tremayne Williams LB – First team All-MIAC, 39 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 FFs, 1 FR, 1 BK
– Josh Carey DB – First team All-MIAC, 34 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 6 pass defences, 1 FF
What to Watch For
Defensive Exodus – Four players made the 2013 All-MIAC team from the Tommie defense: DT Riley Dombek, OLB Harry Pitera, OLB Tremayne Williams, and DB Josh Carey. They combined for 128 tackles (27.4% of the team total), 26 TFL (39.4%), 10.5 sacks (37.5%), 6 FFs (60%), and 3 INTs (27.3%). These four guys represented over a quarter of the Tommies’ defensive production by any metric, and they’re all gone now. Tough to replace.
Offensive Restoration – Senior QB Matt O’Connell is back now that his leg is mended, and he’ll be joined by classmates Dan Ferrazzo (his favorite target) and Ulice Payne III (one of his best protectors), as well as the junior running back duo of Jack Kaiser and Brenton Braddock who’ve already combined for 37 rushing TDs and 2,554 yards in their St. Thomas careers so far. The offense should be even better than the one that finished third in the MIAC in scoring a season ago.
The schedule sets up pretty favorably for the Tommies in 2014. They’ll get UW-LaCrosse, St. John’s, and Concordia-Moorhead, three of their toughest opponents, at home. But the toughest test of all will come on the road against Bethel week 8. This matchup could decide who will win the MIAC and earn an automatic bid to the D3 playoffs.
The strength of the 2013 Tommies was their defense. They finished 8th in D3 with 261.6 yards allowed per game. The defense lost a lot of talent and experience this offseason though, while the offense gained a lot, so expect balance this year now that senior QB Matt O’Connell (of the career 16-2 record) is back.. The conference will likely come down to St. Thomas’ October 25 matchup with Bethel – if the Tommies can pull off the road-victory, they’ll likely win the conference and return to the playoffs. If not, they might make it two missed playoffs in a row, something that hasn’t happened in Glenn Caruso’s six-year tenure as head coach. There will be bumps in the road, but the Tommies have a legit shot at winning the MIAC in 2014 – fans should expect nothing less.