|Chinni Oji's first-quarter
interception set up St. Thomas' third TD of the game.
Photo by Scott Pierson, d3photography.com
St. Thomas exploded to an early lead and overwhelmed Hobart 47-7 Saturday, advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III football playoffs for the second straight year.
The No. 4 Tommies (13-0) will face UW-Oshkosh on Dec. 8 at a site to be announced Sunday, with the victor moving on to the national championship game, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl on Dec. 14 in Salem, Va.
Freshman Brenton Braddock ran for four short touchdowns against No. 7 Hobart (12-1) and, with 94 yards on the ground, reached 1,008 rushing yards for the season. Sophomore wide receiver Dan Ferrazzo had his first 100-yard day, catching six balls for 103 yards and five first downs and also running for a pair of two-point conversions.
St. Thomas matched last year's 13-0 start for the best in school history and won its 16th game in a row in O'Shaughnessy Stadium. The Tommies are 33-2 at home in coach Glenn Caruso's five years, and he tied Frank Deig for most career coaching victories with 56.
St. Thomas took advantage of exceptional field position in the first half, with an average starting position at its 45, while Hobart's average starting position for all 13 drives in the game was its 19.
Freshman Wolfgang Dvorak blocked a punt after Hobart's opening three-and-out series and Kyle Coyne recovered on the Statesmen's four-yard line. Two plays later, Braddock scored the first of four rushing touchdowns and Ferrazzo, the holder on the extra-point kick, ran in a two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Hobart lost standout linebacker Devin Worthington on its first defensive play to a game-ending leg injury.
Hobart was limited offensively, as the St. Thomas (13-0) defense held the Statesmen to just 294 yards of total offense. Junior tailback Steven Webb added his fifth 100-yard rushing game on the season, gaining 103 yards on just 10 carries, including the Statesmen's lone touchdown. Senior rusher Bobby Dougherty contributed another 39 yards on the ground, giving him 1,024 for the season. Webb (1,197) and Dougherty (1,024) mark the first time that Hobart has had two 1,000-yard rushers since 1977, when Ed Cooney (1,197) and Jack Davis (1,074) accomplished the feat. The Statesmen struggled to move the ball through the air, completing just 16 of 32 passes for 154 yards with three interceptions.
Senior wide receiver Junior Woodard hauled in four passes for 32 yards, and in the process, extended his streak of games with a catch to a record 33, breaking Dan Suozzi's 32-game run set in 2004.
Defensively, the Statesmen were led by Andrew Klindera, who finished the game with 12 tackles. Junior defensive back Connor Garrett added seven tackles, including two for loss. Sophomore defensive end Tyre Coleman and senior linebacker Nick Zapp each had a sack on the day.
The Statesmen offense got its lone TD of the day on a fourth and 1 from their own 34. Hobart opted to go for it and handed off to Webb who broke free for his longest scoring run of the season, a 66-yard gallop. Freshman James Hull converted the extra point to make it a 15-7 game. The next two Hobart possessions ended in interceptions. Braddock converted the first into another TD, this one from 5-yards out on the first play of the second quarter. The Tommies added a 42-yard Paul Graupner field goal and a Matt O'Connell touchdown to Matt Allen to carry a 32-7 lead into halftime.