Story and photo courtesy of St. Thomas Athletics
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. 3 Tommies (13-0) will face Saturday’s UW-Oshkosh-Linfield winner on Dec. 8 at a site to be announced Sunday, with the victor moving on to the national championship and the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl on Dec. 15 in Salem, Va.
Freshman Brenton Braddock ran for four touchdowns against No. 7 Hobart (12-1) and, with 94 yards on the ground, has 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.
Field Position Makes Difference
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.
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.
After a Hobart punt and a personal foul penalty, the Tommies had another short field and needed just five plays to go 32 yards and a 15-0 lead. Braddock ran it in from the 2.
The Statesmen gambled on fourth and 1 from their own 34 on the following series and it paid off. Running back Steven Webb burst through the line and ran 66 yards untouched for a touchdown – the longest play from scrimmage given up by St. Thomas this season.
Two series later, the Tommies again took advantage of midfield position after a Chinni Oji interception. They moved 45 yards for another Braddock touchdown and a 22-7 lead one play into the second quarter.
Paul Graupner hit a 42-yard field goal midway through the second quarter to extend the lead to 35-7, and the Tommies got the ball back with 1:10 left in the half. Matt O’Connell hit Ferrazzo for passes of 23 and 14 yards during the drive and capped it off with a two-yard touchdown throw to tight end Matt Allen with 9.7 seconds remaining.
Aside from Webb’s long touchdown run, the St. Thomas defense held Hobart to 52 yards in offense in the first half and only seven yards on the ground. The Statesmen have two 1,000-yard rushers this year in Webb and Bobby Dougherty.
The Tommies put the game away on their first drive of the second half, moving 89 yards in 10 plays for a 40-7 lead. Ferrazzo had three catches for 60 yards on the drive, which Braddock finished off with a two-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the day and 16th of the season. He went over 1,000 yards on the drive.
St. Thomas finished the scoring with six minutes left on a one-yard run by freshman Jack Kaiser. Hobart threatened to score with under a minute to go, driving to the Tommies’ 14, but Dan Bedor got their third interception of the game.