St. Thomas football headed to first-ever title game

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2012 - 6:42 AM

Coach Glenn Caruso, who now has the most wins in school history, is delighted to return to Salem with his team in tow.

view larger photos

  

Glenn Caruso could not hold back the tears. Last December, after his St. Thomas team lost in the semifinals of the NCAA Division III football tournament, the coach attended the title game and wept because his players were not there with him.

Caruso was moved to tears again Saturday, for an entirely different reason. He will return to Salem, Va., this week with his Tommies in tow, after a 28-14 semifinal victory over Wisconsin-Oshkosh put St. Thomas into the NCAA title game for the first time in school history. The No. 3 Tommies (14-0) raced to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter at O'Shaughnessy Stadium, then outlasted the persistent Titans (13-1) and quarterback Nate Wara.

St. Thomas will play top-ranked Mount Union, which defeated Mary Hardin-Baylor 48-35 in Saturday's other semifinal. It will be the 16th appearance in the title game for the Raiders (14-0), who have won 10 NCAA championships.

The No. 5 Titans fumbled on the first play of the game, and Tommies lineman Ayo Idowu scooped up the ball and ran 25 yards for a touchdown after only 14 seconds had elapsed. Quarterback Matt O'Connell threw for one score and ran for two more, including an 8-yard run that capped a long drive late in the third quarter and put St. Thomas ahead 28-7.

The victory was the 57th of Caruso's five-year career at St. Thomas, pushing him past Frank Deig (1946-57) for the most wins in school history. It also kept intact his streak of increasing his victory total in each of his seven seasons as a head coach.

"I sat down there for three days and took it all in, and it hurt,'' Caruso said of his trip to last year's title game after the Tommies lost 20-0 to eventual champ Wisconsin-Whitewater in the semifinals. "All I kept thinking about was how much of a failure I was because I didn't have an opportunity to share that experience with the other 58 guys. I'm grateful we have that chance now.''

Though St. Thomas dominated the first quarter, Caruso said he was on edge until the end. The Titans are well known for late rallies, including last week's comeback from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat No. 2 Linfield on the road.

Wara broke his pinky finger in that game, which didn't seem to affect him Saturday. The senior threw for 266 yards, keeping his team afloat after the Tommies' defense shut down the Titans' rushing game. Wisconsin-Oshkosh ran for only 25 yards.

The Tommies converted a blocked punt into their second touchdown, a 6-yard pass from O'Connell to Logan Marks, and ended a 16-play, eight-minute drive with their third to take a 21-0 lead before the first quarter had ended. Wara launched the Titans' comeback with a 77-yard touchdown strike to Cory Wipperfurth early in the second quarter.

The Titans' defense slowed the Tommies, intercepting O'Connell twice and forcing a fumble that gave them the ball at the St. Thomas 26-yard line late in the third quarter. St. Thomas' defense matched their ferocity. Wisconsin-Oshkosh turned the ball over four times, and after they recovered the fumble, they gained only 8 yards.

The victory was the Tommies' 17th in a row at home, pushing their record to 39-2 over the past three seasons.

"We thought we could take advantage of their young team," said Titans coach Pat Cerroni, who led his team to its first conference title in 36 years. "But their front seven on defense are phenomenal, and their offensive line is very physical."

  • NCAA D-III FOOTBALL SEMIFINALS ST. THOMAS 28, WISCONSIN-OSHKOSH 14

    Championship: St. Thomas vs. Mount Union • 6 p.m. Friday in Salem, Va.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 4th Qtr 0:16
Phoenix 103
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 3rd Prd 12:41
Los Angeles 2
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
UMBC 56
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
SMU 63 FINAL
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 67 2nd Half 5:52
Washington 49
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 71 FINAL
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 58 FINAL
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
UNLV 75
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close