As the top rusher on a team that averages 45 points per game, Colin Tobin is used to hearing praise heaped upon the St. Thomas offense. Saturday, Tobin was happy to deflect all the kudos to his teammates on the other side of the ball.
The fourth-ranked Tommies relied on their defense to earn a hard-fought 17-0 victory over Augsburg at Edor Nelson Field. Tobin, who rolled up 155 yards on 32 carries, was especially grateful to cornerback Chinni Oji. With St. Thomas leading 10-0 early in the fourth quarter, Augsburg drove to the Tommies 12-yard line, only to come away empty when Oji intercepted Marcus Brumm's pass to Wesley Waytashek at the 2.
St. Thomas (6-0) held Brumm, one of the MIAC's top quarterbacks, to 136 passing yards -- 100 fewer than his average. The loss was the first this season for Augsburg (4-1) and leaves the Tommies alone in first place in the MIAC standings.
After Oji's interception, the Auggies recovered a Tobin fumble at the St. Thomas 34-yard line, giving them another shot at a rally with 10 minutes, 46 seconds left. But on fourth-and-1 at the Tommies 9, Brumm misfired on a pass to Hakeem Bourne-McFarlane, and St. Thomas quarterback Dakota Tracy sealed it with a 50-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive.
"Augsburg played very well,'' said Tobin, who gained 119 yards in the second half. "I can't credit our defense enough for their great play all day. They helped the offense out with big plays and turnovers, and it showed up in a shutout win.''
The Auggies defense gave St. Thomas its toughest test of the season by far. The Tommies led just 7-0 at halftime, scoring on a 63-yard pass from Tracy to Fritz Waldvogel on the first play of the second quarter.
Augsburg's stifling pass defense kept Tracy's receivers bottled up for much of the day. That forced the quarterback to run more than usual, and he finished with 124 rushing yards and the second-half touchdown. But St. Thomas also had a hard time creating running room for Tobin in the first half, and its second drive of the game -- to the Augsburg 7 -- ended with an interception.
The Tommies' defense stepped up to fill the void. In the second quarter, it stopped Augsburg on fourth down on consecutive possessions, ending one drive at the St. Thomas 26-yard line and one at the Tommies 25. The Auggies finished with just 250 yards of total offense, well below their average of 398, and were held to 105 total yards and five first downs in the second half.
"We did a great job slowing the pace of the game,'' Augsburg coach Frank Haege said. "We had a chance; we had the ball in the red zone twice and didn't come up with any points. But our kids showed their toughness.''
So did St. Thomas, on a day when things didn't go smoothly. "One of the things I love about our team is they win games in all kinds of ways,'' coach Glenn Caruso said. "It's certainly more fun when you're up 49-0 at halftime, but this is just as productive. And in the long run, it will probably pay more dividends having to gut it out the way we did.''