The MIAC champion University of St. Thomas football team (10-0), ranked No. 3 nationally, will play host to unranked but also unbeaten St. Scholastica (10-0) Saturday, Nov. 19, in a first-round NCAA Division III playoff game at O'Shaughnessy Stadium.
Kickoff is at noon at Palmer Field. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for students. (Children under 2 are admitted free.) As an NCAA event, school or MIAC passes will not be accepted for admission. Ticket sales will start at 10:30 a.m., and stadium gates will open at 11 a.m. Purple on the Plaza pre-game festivities will be held on the John P. Monahan Plaza from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Advance ticket sales will not be available this week at either campus.
In St. Scholastica, St. Thomas will play a school that didn’t have a football team until four years ago. The Saints, 22-16 in those four years, won the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference this season in cruising to an undefeated season and their first NCAA playoff bid.
St. Scholastica averages 45.6 points per game and holds opponents to 15. The Saints are led by quarterback Alex Thiry, a senior from Braham who has thrown for more than 2,500 yards and 37 touchdowns, but are just as potent on the ground with 100-yard rushers Jake Jensen (sophomore, South St. Paul) and junior Travis Nehowig (junior, Maple Grove).
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the NCAA placed St. Thomas, ranked third by d3football.com, in a bracket that includes four teams from the East. The Tommies played in the West region in 2009 and 2010, winning their first two games both years before losing in the quarterfinals.
St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso called the East placement “a bit of a curve ball.” But he wasn’t complaining. “Any time you can face new teams … it’s refreshing,” he said.
After the NCAA announced the field Sunday, Caruso congratulated his players on their undefeated regular season – the first MIAC team to go 10-0 in consecutive years – but at Sunday's announcement of the playoff field, he cautioned them not to let the record go to their heads.
He pointed to the large video screen and the words, “Let’s keep in mind the second season starts today,” followed by the words, “Our record today: 0-0.”
“You are no longer a 10-0 team,” he said. “You were a 10-0 team an hour ago.”
Senior Fritz Waldvogel, who has started at wide receiver for every game of Caruso’s 40-6 tenure at St. Thomas, accepts the 0-0 record and is up for the challenge.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s a re-start. Going 10-0 was great, but having the chance again in the playoffs is special, too. This is what we strive for in the off-season and the regular season.”
The game will have live video (www.mnsportsnetwork.com) and live radio on WCCO 830 AM. WCCO's coverage starts at 11:50 a.m.
St. Thomas' on-campus Bookstore will be open Saturday with extended hours from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Merchandise also will be available on John P. Monahan Plaza.