• Monday Morning Quarterback

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    A Look Back – The Top 10 Most Memorable Moments

    What a year it’s been, from last second cliffhangers to shootouts and dominating defensive efforts, our first year has been one to remember. This season has provided us with so many amazing memories that we thought we would share our top 10 most memorable moments.

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    10. Six OT’s at St. Olaf

    We begin with a game that rewrote the history books as the longest football game in the history of Division III. Unfortunately, we did not come out on top. The game lasted six overtimes and began to approach five hours long. St. Olaf was a team that nine months earlier dominated UST in all phases of the game. But in our first conference game of the season, we showed that we would be a force to be reckoned with. As regulation came to a close, our game captains went to midfield for the coin-toss, a routine that after the fifth OT made you feel like you were in the movie “Groundhog Day.” Through swapping field goals, missed field goals, touchdowns and dominating defensive performances, it dragged into the sixth overtime, when they scored and we did not. There was much to learn from that day, particularly the fact that we had the early makings of a tremendous defense.

     

    9. Singing the Victory song for the first time after the Macalester game

    Home opener versus Mac. The memory of the beautiful weather and tremendous crowd and all the pageantry that surrounds college football was indelible. Obviously, for me it had added meaning, having coached every kid on that field … from both sidelines. “Bittersweet” was the word everyone was using, but all I felt was pride. Our kids remained focused and made some great plays to start the season with a win for the first time in a long time. The highlight of the day was when we first sang our new victory song with the fans. That minute, that feeling, set the tone for what was to be a tremendous season.

     

    8. Gustavus week with Ali Selim

    GAC week, and particularly the week of practice, provides us with memory number eight. Nationally acclaimed film maker Ali Selim had begun a new television series that showed the coach’s perspective of two teams preparing for a game. And Ali decided to use the Tommies versus Gustavus as his backdrop. For the entire week, camera crews had an all-access pass to cover the team: from meetings to practice; staff meetings to filming; and even the kids and I at home having breakfast. Needless to say, the team and cameras became very close, very quickly. The week served as what will be the pilot for a national series, and we will let you know when it gets released. The guys had a great time, and the coaches did as well. The result was an explosive win at Gustavus’ homecoming game.

     

    7. Goals meeting

    This one is a bit too intimate to fully expand on, but I believe that the team meeting that we had on Aug. 26 provided one of the more memorable moments I will ever have as a coach. During that meeting, we all talked openly and set the goals for the present and the future of this program. Needless to say, there was an emotional bond forged in that lecture hall that day that will serve as the foundation on which we build our program. Of the four goals that were set for the lifetime of the program, I am proud to be able to say that we knocked off numbers one and two. … and 3 and 4 are currently in progress.

    6. NWC shutout

    The season-ending game versus Northwestern (Roseville, Minn.) lands at number six on the list. It was a complete game, with all phases dominating from first play to the last. We set records, and the defense held our opponent to negative yardage. And our offense went over the 2,000-yard mark for the season. But mainly, we had the opportunity to make sure that every one of our 13 seniors not only got to play in the game, but they also made the most of their shot. In the closing seconds of the game, the Eagles had first-and-goal at the one-inch line. In a great show of pride, the reserves and the seniors held on for four straight plays to give the Tommie football its first shutout in the last 55 games. An appropriate ending to a tremendous day.

     

    5. Tommie vs. Johnnie atmosphere and game ending

    The Tommie-Johnnie game comes in at number five. A lot is made of the rivalry, and the game, the crowd and the atmosphere lived up to the billing. The game itself was worth the price of admission, but the atmosphere stole the show. With the largest crowd in recent memory, thousands packed Palmer Field to witness this year’s chapter of the storied tilt. The ending was not ideal. We felt it was obviously clear that Ben Wartman had scored the go-ahead touchdown in the closing seconds of the game. But for whatever reason, the TD was not called. Although it was a tough loss to take, I firmly believe that good can come from any negative experience, depending how we handle it. And true to form, that moment of severe disappointment set the table for what would be some of the more amazing moments of the 2008 season and what is now an uncanny drive for the future of our program.

    4. Concordia: A miserable day and homecoming upset

    When we started the season, we looked at the schedule and quickly noticed that we were playing in three homecoming games. … And only one was ours! This is typical when taking over a team that finished 2-8. Concordia was one of those games. The entire trip was a great experience for the team. We left early Friday morning on the trip to Moorhead, and as usual the bus ride provided the team with some great bonding time. After we arrived, we had a walkthrough in the Fargodome, and I introduced the team to some of my former players. We also went as a team to watch the inspiration movie, “The Express” (about Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy). We finished the night with a team meal and meetings in the hotel. Friday’s preparation paid off, as we scored on the first play of the game – a 63-yard pass on a wet and cold day. Defense played lights out, and special teams once again blocked the game-winning field goal attempt to seal the victory over the nationally ranked and then league-leading Cobbers.

     

    3. Bethel third quarter TD and our youth movement

    Bethel had won the MIAC championship each of the last 2 years, and halfway through our game with the reigning champs I somehow ended up with an extra few seconds to take a look at our offensive set. I counted eight freshmen out on the field. I said a quick prayer for our health and ball security, and about 30 seconds later we ripped off a 70+ yard touchdown for the game-winning score. That moment quickly became known as “The Youth Movement of 2008.” Although we are very happy with the future of the program, what stood out the most that day was the third quarter, when we ran the ball without trick or secret right at an opponent, stopped their run game in its tracks and sealed the victory with a toughness that I had not seen in some time, giving us homecoming win number three on the season. That moment felt very, very good.

     

    2. Carleton: Final Score

    “On a late October Day, at home, versus Carleton.” On Friday night, after a team movie, I told the team that this was the response I wanted to be able to give years from now when someone asked me “When was the first moment that you knew you had yourself a team?” Being in on the ground floor of a rebuilding process comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of firsts. And we have been blessed to be a part of that process. The team had just come off as tough a loss as I had ever been a part of – a loss that made the guys feel like the victory had been taken from them, and yet facing another team atop the league that we needed to knock off. My Dad always said that the true mettle of a man is how he responds when times are tough. That challenge was put out to the team, and they responded with pride and passion.

    In a game that saw multiple lead changes, Carleton went ahead in the fourth quarter with 1:22 left on the clock. Our kids did not whine; they did not panic. They put their helmets on and went to work. In a beautifully executed two-minute drive, the offense moved the ball down inside the 10-yard line, and on fourth and goal at the 6 – down by four points with one second left on the clock – time seemed to stop and our world went silent. It was that all or nothing moment we all dreamed about in the backyards of our youth when young boys gave detailed play-by-play calls of the monumental greatness they were making. By the time the officials signaled the touchdown on the far side of the field, a mass of purple and grey – players, coaches, fans and alums had piled together within seconds.

    It was as fun a single moment as I can ever remember having with the guys on the football field. And I swear that a feeling like that alone – those given seconds where all become one – are the reasons why this great game can not be paralleled by another sport. It’s what keeps us coming back for more. Like those eight-year-olds of our past, we ran over to ring the bell and sing the victory song together with the fans. And as the last notes echoed throughout O’Shaughnessy stadium, I glanced over to one of my linemen, and with tears streaking down his beefy and battered cheeks, I thought to myself, “On a late October day, at home, versus Carleton.”

     

    1. The Point After

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    St. Thomas 41 – Northwestern 0
    November 15, 2008

    Welcome to another successful edition of Monday Morning Quarterback. Today we are excited to talk about one of our more enjoyable and complete outings of the year, a 41-0 win over #7 ranked Northwestern.

    Going into the game we knew that our opponent had a lot of confidence, and a lot of success on the field this year. Regardless of their conference competition, they did a tremendous job against non-conference competition, beating some impressive schools including UW-River Falls. We had every reason to believe that this would be a hard-fought game.

    Our offense got on track early, establishing a run game through the use of Both Ben Wartman and Colin Tobin – switching off regularly. And Greg Morse provided some accurate and timely throws in his first collegiate start. We did have a few ball security issues in or wide receiver group – dropping a couple of balls that we thought should have been caught. But fortunately, we were able to overcome those with some successful drives, and were able to put some early points on the board, the first 2 coming from receptions by Jake Friedrichs.

    We went into halftime up 28-0, and really never looked back after that.

    Specials teams kept them pinned in their territory all day. The entire first half was played almost all on their side of the 50-yard line, which is always a comforting feeling. As a defensive and offensive play caller you can get more aggressive and lot more confident in what you’re calling when the opponent is always on their half of the field. The whole playbook was open to both sides thanks to very consistent play by the special teams.

    Defensively, we had one of the most dominating performances I think I’ve ever seen. At halftime they had -23 yards, and they finished the game with -19 yards rushing. Two of the goals we had going into the game were to rush for 300 yards and hold them for negative rushing yards. On offense that would give us 2,000 yards rushing for the season. And on defense that would hold our opponents under 100 yards per game. We were very, very happy to achieve those goals. But defensively – as we have all season – we brought tons of pressure from multiple looks. We had sacks from six different players, and a handful of tackles for a loss as well.  And at the end, the D made a very emotional goalline stand with 6 attempts inside the 10 and 4 shots at the 6 inch line.

    What we were the most excited about was that we were able to play deep into our bench.  We were fortunate to travel with more than the typical in-league limit because it was a non-league game. So, we brought about 75 guys with us. And they all got to play. We got to play all 13 seniors. And we got to play guys who had not seen a lot of game-action this year throughout the third and fourth quarter.

    What was most overwhelming was the crowd. We well-outnumbered their crowd, and probably had 1,000 Tommie fans for an away game. That was a tremendous feeling, and we are very thankful for the support on what turned out to be a beautiful fall day.

    As it turned out, we had an opportunity to make the playoffs. We awaited that call on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, when we got the call, we were not offered an at-large bid. We were one of only two 7-3 teams that were considered and actually got on the selection board.  There were a couple of other teams in the region with 8-2 records, and although they did not have as strong of a strength-of-schedule as us (we ended up with the 14th toughest schedule in the nation out of 242 teams), they decided to take the other teams because of the extra win.

    Regardless, 7-3 is a leap from where these players were a year ago, and I think it’s a testament to their Pride, Passion, effort and their character. Their improvement gave us the third greatest single-season improvement in the nation.  For that I am very thankful and proud.

    We hope that you will join us next week for the final edition of Monday Morning Quarterback where we will review some of the highlights and key moments from the season.

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Jake Friederichs
    • Defense: Willie Baregi
    • Special Teams: Evan Nolander
    • Hustler: Colin Tobin
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Danny Hallman
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Ryan Petterson

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    November 17 is the last Quarterback Club film session at Plums.

    St. Thomas 36 – Bethel 20
    November 8, 2008

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Greg Morse
    • Defense: Willie Baregi
    • Special Teams: Matt Griswold
    • Hustler: Justyn Helgeson
    • Offensive Scout: Ben Graham
    • Defensive Scout: Ian McIntosh

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    Remember, you can watch game film with Coach Caruso live every other Monday night at Plums.

    St. Thomas 20 – Augsburg 22
    November 1, 2008

    Welcome to this week’s edition of Monday Morning Quarterback. As with nearly all of the games this year, Saturday’s tilt came down to the final seconds and the slimmest of margins as Augsburg kicked a field goal with 12 seconds left to take the lead and win 22-20.

    It was a game where the defense did a nice job early, putting a halt to a very explosive passing attack and forcing a couple of turnovers early on.  We were able to get some good pressure on the QB and force him to make some throws on unsure footing.  Not only did the defense force a few turnovers, throughout the game they were able to stop them on 3 of their 4 4th down conversions.  Unfortunately, early in the game the offense did not take advantage of those early turnovers by convert them into points.

    As the game wore on, our offense started to control the run game, and we rushed for well over 300 yards. We also amassed 450 yards of total offense. But twice in the red zone we were stopped; once on a turnover and once on downs.

    As an offense, we knew we had to come out and set the tone early with the run game. We went back to that often, and it was there for us throughout the day.  Even when we needed to drive at the end of the game – down by five points – to take the lead 20-19 with 1:50 remaining in the game.

    Both defenses controlled the first half, as we went into halftime deadlocked at 7-7. We came out and went back on top 14-7 with a touchdown drive in the second half on a long toss play. At that time we swapped a couple of punts, and a turnover on each side as well. In the fourth quarter, Augsburg scored on a deep pass play. Fortunately for us, as we have done many times this year, our field goal-PAT block team came through and blocked the extra point that kept the score 14-13.

    Augsburg scored next on another deep pass in the fourth quarter, and we were able to stop their two-point conversion. So it remained with a five-point lead. We then put together a long drive that chewed up a lot of clock, and we scored on an eight-yard touchdown run with 1:50 left in the game.

    From that point we kicked off and their offense moved down the field to the 6-yard line. With 20 seconds left, they lined up for a field goal on third down. Again our guys got a great push up the front and got their hands up and blocked it.  Although the ball was blocked and crossed the line of scrimmage after being blocked, it rolled back behind the line of scrimmage. And after a slew of guys from both teams tried to recover it, it fell into their hands and was ruled their ball. After a lengthy discussion, Augsburg was able to line up for the field goal again on fourth down, and they made the most out of that opportunity connecting on the kick with :12 seconds left in the game.

    Obviously, it is a very difficult loss for our young men as well as coaches, especially considering the fashion in which it occurred. It’s now been four weeks in a row where we have been in very hard-fought games, all settled in the closing minute – in the end, some have gone our way, and some have not. We say that as a team, when things go our way, we will celebrate and relish the chance to experience them together, when they don’t, we will learn from them but still relish the chance to experience them together.  That is one of the great attributes of this sport we love.  My Father, who is now deceased, used to continually say, “Any man can handle the good times, that’s easy, but the mettle of a man lies in how he handles the tough times.”  I believe he is right and what I am most proud of is the kids’ resilience and willingness to keep fighting through the tough times, to stick together regardless of the situation, learn from it and move forward together.

    This Saturday we will once again have a tremendous opportunity, it is our homecoming  against Bethel . . . we hope to see you there.

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Ben Wartman
    • Defense: Jeffrey Hilliard
    • Special Teams: Willie Baregi
    • Hustler: Zach Sturm
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Reed Mainquist
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Matt Evans

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    Remember, you can watch game film with Coach Caruso live every other Monday night at Plums.

     

    St. Thomas 33 – Carleton 31
    October 25, 2008

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Jake Friederichs
    • Defense: Tony Danna
    • Special Teams: Matt Griswold
    • Hustler: Alex Gauper
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Erik Wimme
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Kyle Boughner

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    Remember, you watch game film with Coach Caruso live every other Monday night at Plums.

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       St. Thomas 9 – St. John’s 12                                   October 18, 2008

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Ben Wartman
    • Defense: Tommy Becker
    • Special Teams: John Hasbargen
    • Hustler: Team Defense
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Patrick Rothstein
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Chandler Ryan

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    Remember, you can watch game film with Coach Caruso live every other Monday night at Plums.

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       St. Thomas 14 – Concordia-Moorhead 13         October 11, 2008

    Welcome to another victorious edition of Monday Morning Quarterback. I’m very proud to come off the long road trip with a huge win over former conference leader Concordia.  That makes two weeks in a row we’ve gone on the road versus a good MIAC team in a hostile environment and taken the W.  We are now 2-0 in Homecoming games this year, and have yet to play ours.  So, we couldn’t be happier with the mental toughness our kids are displaying.

    The win up at Concordia was an extremely physical one – a very tough game all around. We told the kids before the game that it was going to take a physical and mental toughness from them that we had not seen yet. There is no question that the team heard the message and responded accordingly. Our guys not only matched their effort, they surpassed it in resounding fashion.

    On offense, we got off to a good start scoring on the first play of the game, but we had some red zone chances early that we didn’t capitalize on – both with the kicking game and going for it on fourth down.  During that stretch, our defense did a spectacular job keeping us in the game.  And following their second score came up big with a blocked extra point attempt which proved to be the margin of victory.   In the second half the defense used many halftime adjustments to shut out a very potent running attack that uses the option extremely well, creating a few turnovers along the way.  Our tackling improved as the game wore on and the D showed poise and resilience in bringing their drives to a halt.  Offensively, we set the tone on the ground once again, which has been a recurring theme for the first half of the season. The run game was led by some hard running by the backs and quarterback along with very good blocking by the offensive line and fullbacks.  And with the game on the line in the 4th quarter, the O staged an impressive 11 play, 80 yard drive resulting in the final touchdown of the game

    The Cobbers have proven to be a team that is difficult to beat on their home field, and the conditions were by no means perfect. But I think if you ask any one of our players, they would say that the wet, cold and rainy weather was ideally suited for us on that day. We’ve proven that we might not always be the best looking team out there, but we are a hard-working, blue collar, bring-your-lunch-pail sort of team that works their butts off and is learning how to win close games … even when the stat sheet says you shouldn’t.  And for that I am both grateful and proud.

    We hope to see you all next week at home when we host Saint John’s. Remember to wear your purple and white, and come ready to share in our Tommie Pride.

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Sam Moen
    • Defense: Kirk Baglien
    • Special Teams: Jeffery Hilliard
    • Hustler: David Sauer
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Erik Wimme
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Chris Strom

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    Remember, you can watch game film with Coach Caruso live every other Monday night at Plums.

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    St. Thomas 30 – Gustavus 22                                     October 4, 2008

    I cannot be more proud of a team than I am of this one right now. In true Tommie fashion, I saw 60 heartbeats come together and act as one. It was a very tough game. But we’ve told our kids over and over again that anything worthwhile in life does not come easy. And this game was a testament to that fact.

    There were many ups and downs. We had a great start. Our defense came out and played extremely well. They put pressure on a very awkward offense to defend – with a lot of wide receivers and no huddling. And although we gave up two big plays, we stopped the Gustavus run game dead in its tracks. And we were able to make a lot of good plays on the ball. Three or four sacks certainly helped out.

    On offense, what I’m most ecstatic about is the fact that we thought we had a run game before, but now we know we have a run game. We have a toughness and energy up front with our O-line, tight ends and fullbacks that I have not seen here in some time. And that is a byproduct of the hard work and mental toughness they have shown both physically and mentally. We were fairly “ball secure” – I think we had one tipped ball. Ball security is the key to winning, and we were able to take care of the ball today. I am very proud of that.

    What is most exciting is that we put all three facets of the game together today. It may not have been a perfect game on offense, or a perfect game on defense or special teams, but when each side of the ball needed the other side, they were there to pick up the slack. And that is how I know this team is coming together.

    In this conference, to be able to go on the road and take a win like we did, is a very impressive feat. Today we had a very hostile environment. There were 6,000 fans at homecoming for Gustavus, and they were sky high with emotion. We were not only able to meet that level of emotion, but surpass it. The heart and emotion our kids played today with was impeccable.

    In the locker room before the game we talked about when you’re a kid and dream about playing football, you dream about days like today. Skies are clear. The stands are packed. A crucial conference game is on the line. I could not think of a day that was more apropos to those dreams we had 10 or 15 years ago when we were playing in the sandlots and backyards – both as players and coaches.  It was a fantastic day for football, and a huge day for the Tommies.

    I want to thank our very faithful following for coming out and supporting us the way they did. We hope to see you next week up at Concordia.

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Offensive Line
    • Defense: Tom Becker
    • Special Teams: Zach Sturm
    • Hustler: Ricky Margarit
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Matt Joshi
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Neil Flaherty

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    Remember, you can watch game film live with Coach Caruso every other Monday night at Plums.

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    St. Thomas 24 – Hamline 21                                           Sept. 27, 2008

     

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Kris Kopp
    • Defense: Tony Danna
    • Offense: Ben Wartman
    • Hustler: Jake Friederichs
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Reed Mainquist
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Joe Sunnarborg

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    Remember, you can watch game film live with Coach Caruso every other Monday night at Plums.

     

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    St. Thomas 23 – St. Olaf 29 (6OT)                               Sept. 20, 2008

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Fritz Waldvogel
    • Defense: Brady Ervin
    • Special Teams: A.C. Clouthier
    • Hustler: Tony Danna
    • Offensive Scout of the Week: Dan Carr
    • Defensive Scout of the Week: Ryan Petterson

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    Remember, you can watch game film live with Coach Caruso every other Monday night at Plums.

     

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    Bye Week                                                                                Sept. 13, 2008

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    St. Thomas 35 – Macalester 10                                    Sept. 6, 2008

    Coach Caruso’s Players of the Game

    • Offense: Tom Knowles
    • Defense: Brady Ervin
    • Special Teams: Willie Baregi
    • Hustler: Zach Sturm

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    Remember, you can watch game film live with Coach Caruso every other Monday night at Plums.

     

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