Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: St. Thomas defense gets in right place at right time

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 13, 2012 - 12:14 PM
The St. Thomas football team's defense is built around the concept of individual responsibility, of knowing one's specific job and performing it with precision. In that system, linebacker Mike Valesano said, the cumulative effort of 11 smaller heroes means that no one needs to be Hercules or Superman.

That does not prevent the occasional star turn. Twice in the past three weeks, defensive lineman Ayo Idowu has gotten his hands on a loose ball and run for a touchdown, the first scores of his career. While those plays were instrumental in playoff victories over Elmhurst and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Idowu's embrace of his usual role outside the spotlight -- along with that of his teammates -- is what really got St. Thomas to Friday's NCAA Division III championship game against Mount Union.

The Tommies are ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense (14.1 points per game), seventh in run defense (76.9 yards per game) and sixth in third-down conversion defense (58 first downs made in 212 attempts, 27 percent). During the regular season, they held MIAC rival Bethel to its first shutout in 90 games; in last Saturday's semifinal victory over Wisconsin-Oshkosh, they allowed only 25 rushing yards and forced four turnovers.

Though Idowu got the glory, he is quick to note that his touchdowns resulted from the Tommies' collective effort. In both cases -- the go-ahead score in a tight game against Elmhurst and the opening score in the victory over Oshkosh -- his teammates caused the fumble by disrupting a pitch, then cleared his path to the end zone. They will face their sternest test this season against No. 1 Mount Union, which boasts the most productive offense in Division III.

"We won't change what we do," said Idowu, who leads the No. 3 Tommies with five sacks and 16 tackles for loss. "Our focus is always on stopping the run first. And we're definitely a team defense. We're a very close group of guys."

'Clear minds make fast legs'

Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said the steady play of the defense has been his team's touchstone throughout the season. Defensive coordinator Wallie Kuchinski directs a 3-4 scheme in which players are expected to know their duties and stay on task.

The defense is constructed to adapt to a variety of situations, and it often mixes up its personnel to keep opposing teams guessing. But Caruso said it is not unnecessarily complicated; one of his credos is "Clear minds make fast legs," and Kuchinski's schemes ensure the Tommies' speed and instincts are not compromised. They also make use of a broad array of talent, with key statistics spread out among a large group of players.

Kuchinski came to St. Thomas when Caruso took over the program in 2008, inheriting a defense that had given up more than 35 points per game. Idowu, who played at Woodbury High School, already had decided to play at Concordia (St. Paul) when he spoke to Caruso.

But Idowu could not forget how convincing and passionate Caruso was about his desire to turn around the Tommies' undistinguished program. He changed his mind and committed himself to that same ambition, bringing a fun-loving personality inside a 6-2, 251-pound body. Though Idowu missed some time this season with an ankle injury, he was determined not to let it spoil his senior year.

"I wanted to make an impact on this team in the short term and the long term," said Idowu, who has 47 1/2 tackles -- third-most on the team-- and is adept at harassing quarterbacks. "I owed it to them. I had an epiphany in the middle of the Concordia game, and I decided I was going to stop thinking about my ankle hurting. I was just going to play as hard as I could."

Since that game-- a 21-7 victory on Nov. 3 -- Idowu has flourished. The first time he returned a fumble for a touchdown, he surprised himself by running 86 yards. The second time, much to his relief, he had to cover only 25 yards. In addition to the two scores, Idowu has forced a fumble, broken up three passes and recorded three tackles for loss in four playoff games.

Consider him impressed

Mount Union coach Larry Kehres is keenly aware of his performances and those of his teammates. Kehres offered the Tommies' defense a major compliment, saying it reminded him of his own -- which is ranked at the top of Division III.

"To be a good defensive unit, the coaching staff has to put you in position to make good plays," Kehres said. "They are in good position. And they're quick, they're really in good physical condition, and they're very, very good tacklers."

Caruso said the defense has grown in confidence throughout the season, and he attributes its strength to its consistent ability to play hard, play fast and run to the ball. And, occasionally, to its ability to run the ball in for a touchdown, with one man finishing the work begun by 11.

"There has been so much blood and sweat shed for this opportunity, from everyone on this team and the ones who came before us," Idowu said. "The last three years at this time, we were in the library studying for finals. Now we're getting ready to try and win a national championship for St. Thomas. It's surreal."

 

  • related content

  • Ayo Idowu

  • Ayo Idowu’s pursuit of a fumble took him right into St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso during a playoff victory against Elmhurst.

  • NCAA DIVISION III CHAMPIONSHIP ST. THOMAS VS. MOUNT UNION

    6 p.m. Friday • Salem Stadium, Salem, Va.

    TV: ESPNU (104.1-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa Bay - WP: J. McGee 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: B. Morrow 5
Cleveland - LP: B. Shaw 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: P. Coke 6
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 7
Miami - WP: A. DeSclafani 5 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: J. Papelbon 4
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 2 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Garza 9
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 8 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 4
Minnesota - WP: T. May 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 4
Colorado - LP: J. Lyles 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 4
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 3 FINAL
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 10
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 1
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 4 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 6 FINAL
Arizona - WP: Z. Spruill 8
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: C. Young 0
NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: D. O`Day 3
Miami 10 FINAL
Buffalo 29
Jacksonville 10 FINAL
Washington 41
Dallas 26 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Arizona 25 FINAL
NY Giants 14
New England 30 FINAL
Minnesota 7
New Orleans 24 FINAL
Cleveland 26
Atlanta 10 FINAL
Cincinnati 24
Detroit 7 FINAL
Carolina 24
St. Louis 19 FINAL
Tampa Bay 17
Seattle 21 FINAL
San Diego 30
NY Jets 24 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Kansas City 17 FINAL
Denver 24
Houston 30 FINAL
Oakland 14
Chicago 28 FINAL
San Francisco 20
Philadelphia 9/15/14 7:30 PM
Indianapolis
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
Boise State 38 FINAL
Connecticut 21
Indiana 42 FINAL
Bowling Green 45
Ga Southern 38 FINAL
Georgia Tech 42
Syracuse 40 FINAL
Central Mich 3
UCF 10 FINAL
(18) Missouri 38
Massachusetts 31 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
Ohio U 14 FINAL
Marshall 44
West Virginia 40 FINAL
Maryland 37
Kent State 0 FINAL
(23) Ohio State 66
Pittsburgh 42 FINAL
FIU 25
East Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia Tech 21
Louisville 21 FINAL
Virginia 23
Wyoming 14 FINAL
(2) Oregon 48
Air Force 48 FINAL
Georgia State 38
(13) Georgia 35 FINAL
(14) So Carolina 38
Arkansas 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 28
Iowa State 20 FINAL
Iowa 17
Miami-Ohio 10 FINAL
Michigan 34
Kansas 3 FINAL
Duke 41
NC State 49 FINAL
So Florida 17
Arkansas State 20 FINAL
Miami-Florida 41
Miss State 35 FINAL
South Alabama 3
Louisiana 15 FINAL
(10) Ole Miss 56
Minnesota 7 FINAL
TCU 30
Illinois 19 FINAL
Washington 44
Army 0 FINAL
(16) Stanford 35
Western Mich 45 FINAL
Idaho 33
Eastern Mich 3 FINAL
Old Dominion 17
Southern Miss 12 FINAL
(3) Alabama 52
Northern Ill 48 FINAL
UNLV 34
Tulsa 21 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 50
ULM 0 FINAL
(8) LSU 31
Wake Forest 24 FINAL
Utah State 36
Western Ky 47 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 50
TX-San Antonio 13 FINAL
(25) Oklahoma State 43
Purdue 14 FINAL
(9) Notre Dame 30
Kentucky 30 FINAL
Florida 36
New Mexico St 24 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 42
Tennessee 10 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 34
(17) USC 31 FINAL
Boston College 37
Navy 35 FINAL
Texas State 21
(12) UCLA 20 FINAL
Texas 17
Penn State 13 FINAL
Rutgers 10
Rice 10 FINAL
(6) Texas A&M 38
(15) Arizona State 38 FINAL
Colorado 24
(24) Nebraska 55 FINAL
Fresno State 19
Nevada 28 FINAL
Arizona 35
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close