Blessed with a comparatively beautiful day to play football, St. Thomas nonetheless decided Saturday that it was better to hand the ball repeatedly to Colin Tobin rather than fling it everywhere like their opponent prefers to do.
One week after they opened the Division III playoffs in a snowstorm, the Tommies beat Monmouth (Ill.) 38-10 on a wet, cold, breezy afternoon when they scored four unanswered second-half touchdowns.
Tobin scored two of those on an afternoon when he rushed 39 times for 258 yards while Monmouth and its no-huddle, spread offense struggled on first downs and just about every other down as well.
"We knew we'd have to ground and pound today if we wanted to advance further in the playoffs," Tobin said. "We came in with that attitude."
Tobin's fellow senior Fritz Waldvogel scored the other two second-half touchdowns. He broke a 10-10 halftime tie by returning the second-half kickoff 100 yards -- the 10th return touchdown of his collegiate career -- and later scored on a 48-yard pass reception. Add up his running, receiving and returning, and he finished with 336 all-purpose yards.
"I was joking on the sidelines that anyone could have done it," said Waldvogel, who has returned five punts and five kickoffs for touchdowns. "The lane was there. I just went right up the sideline."
The Tommies' second-half surge compensated for three first-half turnovers that left them tied 10-10 at halftime even though they had 14 first downs to Monmouth's two and 312 yards of total offense to the Scots' 71.
"I think you're being nice by saying a couple," Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said, noting his team committed a total of four turnovers Saturday. "Let's get that number right. It's an anomaly for us. You can say all you want it was the slick conditions. You can throw that out the window. We just need to be better at that."
St. Thomas improved to 12-0 for the second consecutive year, thanks to a disciplined defense that limited Monmouth senior quarterback Alex Tanney to one 37-yard touchdown pass and 227 yards on 19-for-35 passing by reducing the Scots' first-down efficiency.
Last week, the Tommies thumped St. Scholastica on a afternoon when punts fell and died with a thump in 3 inches of snow. Saturday, they ran away from Monmouth (10-2) in the wind and the mist.
"This is our ninth game in bad weather, where it's raining or snowing or sleeting while the game's going on," Caruso said, referring to his four seasons as Tommies coach. "And we're now 9-0, so we're not opposed to adverse conditions. I think it's a tribute to our kids' focus and mental toughness that we've been successful."
And next week's forecast when St. Thomas will face St. John Fisher of Rochester, N.Y., in the D-III quarterfinals, also likely to be at the Tommies' own O'Shaughnessy Stadium?
It's too early yet for Waldvogel to tell, but he knows one thing.
"It's going to be fun playing a team we never really played before," he said. "To be honest, I know nothing about St. John Fisher. This time of the season, we're just fighting to spend another week together. We're playing in December and when you look at your program, that's where want to be."