St. Thomas football is dominant. They went undefeated this year, and only one game — at Concordia-Moorhead on Oct. 8 — was decided by fewer than 10 points. The Tommies' blowout win over Northwestern wasn't shocking, but it was astonishing to read the final score: 43-0.
The St. Thomas defense held a potent Northwestern offense to zero scores — the first post-season shutout in St. Thomas history, by the way — and a mere 162 total yards. They were also the only team to post a shutout in the first round of the 2016 D3 Football Playoffs.
As such, we decided to reach out to St. Thomas defensive coordinator Wallie Kuchinski to get a little more insight into his team's stellar defensive performance. Read on!
HERO Sports: Talk about the team's defensive performance against Northwestern.
KUCHINSKI: We started out a bit slow. It’s always exciting in the playoffs to play different opponents. You never really know what you can expect with adjustments throughout. I was proud of our guys and coaches in making some nice adjustments. We certainly got a spark with Adam Kraft’s fumble force. We really started to settle in after that. We’ve always stressed attacking the ball, so to get 3 INT & the Fumble was a direct result of the process our players have been working on.
HERO: You completely shut Northwestern's offense down. What was the key to that success?
KUCHINSKI: St Thomas has always been a unit. We work together very diligently. Our players are extremely selfless and take a tremendous amount of pride in their role. We fit very well together in the run game on Saturday. Suffocating the opposing offenses run game forces them to be one dimensional. Once that happened our coverage was superb.
HERO: St. Thomas has been one of the best — if not the best — teams defensively all season long. How did you maintain such a strong, steady run over the course of 10 games?
KUCHINSKI: We just focus on one game at a time. One day at a time. This game, like life, is Finite! Our players understand that the privilege of playing this game can be taken away from you at any point. They work tirelessly to play each play like it’s their last. We are a process oriented team…We never focus on the result!
HERO: Can you talk about your defense in detail? How would you describe it? What schemes do you like to run, etc.?
KUCHINSKI: We are very aggressive! We fly to the ball! We are effort based! We are well coached!
HERO: Who has been the best contributor on that side of the ball?
KUCHINSKI: I’m not a big stats guy. But if you take a look at the stats from this season individually you won’t notice a lot of standouts. The team stats are pretty dominant!! Everyone has their share of contribution. Michael Alada has 10 INT’s on the year. If you asked him how he got that many, he would tell you, because of the pressure our pass rush puts on offenses. Love these Selfless guys!!
HERO: What wrinkles did you throw in the defense compared to last season?
KUCHINSKI: It’s our coaching staff’s job to find what our players skill set is each year. Each season is a new story. You put last season’s book on the shelf and write a new one. Our staff does a phenomenal job at putting our players in the right place to make plays.
HERO: In terms of defensive performances, where does the bout against Northwestern stand for you personally?
KUCHINSKI: I’m excited to be able to be around our players one more week. That’s really all I’m interested in. One more week. Next week, I’ll want one more week with these guys as well. They are amazing people!
HERO: They say a team reflects its coaches personality. What ways does St. Thomas' defense reflect you?
KUCHINSKI: I was always undersized as a player. The only way I was anything close to being a great player was because I’ve NEVER taken a play off in my life! Our players SPRINT everywhere. It’s impressive watching the hunger we display on a weekly basis.
HERO: Looking ahead, what are some of the challenges you expect to face against Coe?
KUCHINSKI: Coe is a fantastic football team! Their Running Back is one of the best in the country! He has speed, vision, patience, toughness and extremely athletic. They have a huge offensive line. They can beat you throwing the ball or running it. Make no mistake about it…If they can run every play they will. They really dare you to stop the run.
HERO: Additional thoughts?
KUCHINSKI: I can only answer these questions because of the players that have been through our program. If they can see far it’s because they’ve stood on the shoulders of giants. We have a very proud short history here. I’m extremely indebted to be a part of this amazing university!