Defense Leads Tommies to Big MIAC Win

October 07, 2017 08:43 PM

Adam Brant was a little disappointed he didn't reach the end zone.

But that was about all the St. Thomas junior linebacker had to be disappointed about Saturday.


He and his teammates on the Tommies' defense turned in about as smothering a performance as possible, forcing Concordia-Moorhead into more punts (nine) than it had first downs (six) en route to a 21-0 MIAC victory before a Homecoming crowd of 5,150 at O'Shaughnessy Stadium.

"We played really well," said Brant, who finished with two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 23 yards to the Cobbers' 2-yard line in the third quarter to set up his team's final touchdown.

A touchdown that could have been his had he not been ruled out of bounds.

"They have one of the best running games in the conference and we were able to hold them in check. It was just a testament to the trust we have in ourselves as a defense."

St. Thomas - ranked No. 6 in the nation in the latest Division III poll - improved to 4-0 in conference play and 5-1 overall. Concordia - ranked No. 20 - fell to 2-1 in the MIAC and 4-1 overall.

It marked the first time the Cobbers had been shutout since a 7-0 loss to Gustavus in November of 2006.

The Tommies stubbed their toe early, falling 25-22 at Wisconsin-Stout on Sept. 9. Since that time, though, they have won four straight. That includes a 20-17 win over St. John's on Sept. 23 at Target Field and the victory over Concordia Saturday.

They still have four regular-season games to go. But St. Thomas is now in the driver's seat when it comes to the race for this season's conference title.

"At the beginning of a season, you need time to grow and build as a team," Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said. "And we've seen that with this group.

"The teams we've had come out of the gates fast right away in weeks one and two haven't always continued to grow. This team has shown a lot of improvement each week."

St. Thomas made life difficult for Cobbers sophomore Blake Kragnes, who was making his first collegiate start at quarterback in place of senior Michael Herzog.

Herzog suffered a foot injury in a win over Gustavus last week.

Kragnes, who had been playing tight end, threw for just 30 yards, was sacked four times and had three costly fumbles - two of which set up Tommies' touchdowns.

"They put a lot of pressure on us and we couldn't throw the ball very well," said Cobbers coach Terry Horan, whose team also lost its starting center early on Saturday. "We didn't have a lot of time back there. And we always want to try and establish our running game. But we didn't really do that either.

"So our defense was on the field a lot today."

Senior Chad Johnson, Concordia's standout running back, was held to just 55 yards on 16 carries.

"Our defense has been playing lights out the past three weeks," said Tommies junior running back Tucker Trettel, who rushed for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"Really, all season long. When they pick us up the way they did today, it's a special feeling."

St. Thomas is idle next week. The Tommies return to action when they play at Hamline on Oct. 21.


Frank Rajkowski

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