/playoffs/2012/st-thomas-unfazed-in-first-trip-to-salem

St. Thomas unfazed in first trip to Salem

More news about: St. Thomas
Mount Union pulled out all the stops, including Dan Ferrazzo taking a fake field goal snap to the end zone for a touchdown.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com 

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

SALEM, Va. -- Unfazed. Starting seven freshmen and sophomores on offense; losing their leading rusher in the game’s opening minutes; making the program’s first Stagg Bowl appearance. Nothing fazed St. Thomas on this clear Friday night in Salem.

The Tommies lost Stagg Bowl XL to Mount Union, 28-10. Until late in the final quarter, the outcome was in doubt. St. Thomas trailed just 14-7 at halftime.

Facing a 14-0 first-quarter deficit, the Tommies could have folded. They could have been satisfied with reaching the pinnacle of D-III football. St. Thomas could have been content with the trip to Salem and the excitement that comes with Stagg Bowl week. Instead, the Tommies put up a fight against a Purple Raiders team playing in its eighth straight Stagg Bowl. There was no solace in defeat.

“We all wanted this very, very badly,” said Tommies coach Glenn Caruso. “We worked tirelessly and selflessly to do so. We failed tonight.”

Mount Union took the early lead, driving down the field on the game’s first possession. Jake Simon capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. The Tommies defense stiffened after that, keeping the Purple Raiders offense out of the end zone for the remainder of the half. Mount Union had 136 yards in the first half, but 82 of those came on the opening drive.

“At times, I feel that our defensive front is underestimated,” said Caruso. “They do a great job.”

It was no surprise that special teams played a big factor in this one. Mount Union made the first impact in that phase of the game, as Charles Dieuseul blocked a Garrett Maloney punt, scooped up the ball, and ran it in for the Purple Raiders’ second score of the game. The Tommies trailed 14-0 after the first quarter, but St. Thomas had a big special teams play up its sleeve.

On fourth down at the Mount Union 10-yard line early in the second quarter, wide receiver and holder Dan Ferrazzo took the field goal snap and ran it in for a touchdown. The momentum shifted in the Tommies’ favor and a stout defensive effort kept the momentum on the newcomers’ sideline.

Matt O'Connell took some hits but was unfazed against Mount Union.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

“Our confidence was high the whole game,” said sophomore quarterback Matt O’Connell.

Freshman running back Brenton Braddock started the game for St. Thomas, but only carried the ball twice before leaving with an injury that kept him out of practice all week. Braddock led the team with 207 carries, 1,125 yards, and 16 touchdowns entering the game.

The offensive burden fell on the shoulders of O’Connell. The Tommies’ defense and special teams helped relieve that burden. Ryan Deitz came up with another huge special teams play when he stripped Chris Denton on a punt return. That led to a Paul Graupner 38-yard field goal which brought St. Thomas within four with 6:27 to play in the third quarter. The Tommies were beating Mount Union at their own game.

“They are a quick defense, a pressure defense, they tackle well, and they run to the football,” said Mount Union coach Larry Kehres. “They are very well prepared and coached and they have solid special teams with the element of surprise on special teams, which is something we like to do. I certainly do [see similarities between our teams].”

After that score, St. Thomas failed to capitalize on opportunities. Mount Union proved why it was the nation’s leading defense all season, holding St. Thomas to just 35 yards of offense in the second half.

“We had opportunities to put a few more points on the board,” said Caruso. “If we would have done a better job on the offensive side of the ball, we could have been in better shape.”

The Purple Raiders pulled away with a fourth-down score on a great catch by Denton with just over a minute to play in the third quarter. Simon iced the game with his second touchdown run of the game in the fourth quarter.

“Obviously, we’re crushed right now,” said Ferrazzo. “We’re going to own up to it and learn from it.”

For a team with so many underclassmen, the Tommies will have opportunities to return. For the departing seniors, they left a legacy that no St. Thomas players before them can claim. The national semifinal trip of 2011 and the Stagg Bowl appearance in 2012 are impressive, but the loss tonight was in no way a moral victory for the Tommies.

“We’ve gotten markedly better every year,” said Caruso. “They take ownership, as do I. I failed tonight and I have no problem saying that. I will learn from it and get better and I will not make the same mistake twice.”

While Mount Union and UW-Whitewater have made it look easy in years past, returning to the Stagg Bowl in consecutive years is no easy accomplishment. Caruso called three timeouts in the final minute of the game, bringing his entire team together on the sideline during each pause in the action. He wants them to remember the moment and the feeling and to make this experience last as long as possible.

“We respect this game too much to not play every second to our hardest,” said Caruso. “I told them I loved them and that I would do anything I can to keep them playing football for one more second.”

Caruso made the trip to Salem last year, as a spectator. The fire that burned in him after watching from the stands helped drive him and his team to reach the playing field this year. Now, the fire burns deeper than ever before.

“The only way we’re going to get where we want to be, with those fireworks over our head, is if we own up to our failures and not make the same mistakes twice,” said Caruso. “The difference between being on our side and their side is sometimes so slim.”

Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
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at Union 28, Hobart 23
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at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
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at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
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at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
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SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
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Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
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at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Albion 31, Alma 28
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at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
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Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
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Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
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at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
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Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
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at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
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Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
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at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
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RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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at Curry 46, Nichols 16
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at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
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Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
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Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
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Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
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Tufts 21, at Williams 13
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Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
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at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
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John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
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at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
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Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
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UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
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Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
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at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
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at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
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Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
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Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
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at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
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at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
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at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
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Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
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at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
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UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
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at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
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at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
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Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
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at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
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at Castleton 17, Dean 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
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at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
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Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
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at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
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at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
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Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 27: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Southern Virginia
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Oct. 27: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Southern Virginia
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