Gene's Blog: Last-minute reading as kickoff nears
August 28, 2012
When St. Thomas opens its 2012 football season next Saturday afternoon at UW-Eau Claire, it will mark the first season opener since 1997 that either Andrew Hilliard, P.J. Theisen or Fritz Waldvogel won’t be lining up as a deep receiver threat for the Purple and Grey.
The three playmakers, who each earned CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, were each four-year starters whose careers didn’t overlap. They combined to score 94 touchdowns with nearly 11,000 receiving yards in 130 career games.
Waldvogel, of St. Thomas Academy, started all 50 games and caught at least one pass in each game. He closed his career with 46 touchdowns, 300 receptions, 4,289 receiving yards and 7,433 all-purpose yards.
Theisen, a New Prague High graduate, started 42 games over five seasons (2003-2007). He took a medical hardship in 2006 after an early-season injury. He came back for a fifth year in 2007. Theisen had 218 receptions for 3,223 yards, 4,025 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns.
Hilliard, a native of Woodbury, was a four-year starter from 1999-2002 who missed just two of 40 career games due to injury. He finished with 147 receptions for 2,547 yards with 23 touchdowns.
PHOTO: Fritz Waldvogel gets loose in the 2011 win at Bethel. (Greg Smith photo)
--In last weekend's German Football League play, Waldvogel's Schwabisch Hall team won 47-7 to move its record to 11-1, including a 10-0 mark since Fritz joined the team. He finished the game with 290 all-purpose yards and scored his 28th and 29th touchdowns of the season.
--Tommie All-America center Curtis James will be profiled in this Friday's Star Tribune sports section for his football feats and his unusual "coaching" career off the field.
--Coach Glenn Caruso first weekly radio show starts Thursday live at 6:30 p.m., on WCCO.
--WCCO Radio started calling college football games in 1924 and it's been part of their station every year since. WCCO will begin another season this Saturday as it starts year two of broadcasting Tommie football. Dave Lee and Eric Nelson will be at the microphone with a 3 p.m. pregame show from Eau Claire on 830 AM.
--In the four-year Caruso era, St. Thomas football is 13-1 in September games. The lone loss was the six-overtime decision at St. Olaf in Sept. 2008.
--In that four-year span, the Tommies are 15-2 against non-MIAC teams.
--Saturday’s game in Eau Claire takes Caruso back to a school where he worked as an assistant coach one season (2003, offensive coordinator/offensive line). The Blugolds went 5-5 that fall. The next year he returned to the North Central Conference at Division II South Dakota for the first of two seasons as offensive coordinator.
--Over the last four seasons, Eau Claire has had unusual statistical parity: a combined 21-19 won-loss record; 997 points scored (24.9 ppg) vs. 1,017 points allowed (25.4 ppg); and 14,379 yards gained (360 ypg) vs. 14,476 yards allowed (362 ypg).
Eau Claire went 5-5 last season, including a 1-3 record at home. The Blugolds topped St. John’s for the second year in a row, and lost a 37-22 decision to NCAA champ UW-Whitewater. But they dropped four other games by a combined 26 points.
Eau Claire averaged 27 points on offense in 2011 but allowed 23 points a game. It only had 13 turnovers but gained just 13 to finish even in turnover margin. The Blugolds outscored opponents 100-21 in the first quarter but were outscored 91-49 in the fourth quarter. They passed for 248 yards a game but rushed for just 123.
Key players back include tight end Austin Goetsch, a preseason All-America honoree; QB Austin Neu; and PK Josh Albrecht. Neu threw 17 touchdown passes with just seven interceptions last season and ranked in the top 25 nationally in passing efficiency. Albrecht made 9-of-12 field goals, including 5-of-8 beyond 37 yards.
The Blugolds have a senior linebacker from St. Cloud and a junior center from Michigan but the other 21 starters come from the Badger state.
Under the Radar?
Bethel has won or shared four of the last 12 MIAC football titles and has emerged as a consistent postseason threat in the conference race. The Royals always seem to fly just under the radar in the preseason MIAC poll, though. Since 2005 they’ve been picked for second place four times and for third place two of the other three years.
Either St. John’s or St. Thomas has carried the torch as the No. 1 team in the coaches’ voting for more thsan a decade. The 2012 poll again has the Royals at No. 2 behind UST.
Bethel, which graduated a savvy QB in Josh Aakre, returns 15 starters. The Royals are the Tommies' Homecoming opponent on Oct. 13.
Just Like Old Times
One of the interesting story lines in 2012 MIAC football is the return of former Hamline head coach Dick Tressel, who will work as an assistant coach this fall at Carleton.
Tressel spent the last 11 seasons working in the football program at Ohio State. The last MIAC football game that he coached came back in November 2000, an 18-13 loss to the Tommies at O’Shaughnessy Stadium. Tressel won 124 games in 23 seasons as Piper head coach.
How have things changed in college football since Tressel’s Hamline debut in 1978? In that season:
--the Big Ten really had 10 teams
--the Big East didn’t exist, but the Southwest Conference was alive and well
--Woody Hayes was Ohio State’s head coach... that is until he punched a Clemson player during a New Year's Eve bowl game and was pressured to retire
--Notre Dame was a top-10 ranked team, captained by Joe Montana
--Arizona and Arizona joined to make the Pac 8 the Pac 10
--Alabama topped Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, held in the New Orleans’ three-year-old Superdome
--Cal Stoll was coaching his sixth and final year with the Gophers, who averaged 35,000 fans at Memorial Stadium, and was led by team MVP Marian Barber, Jr.
--St. Olaf and Concordia shared the MIAC crown.
Sign of the Times
The Davanni's restaurant at Cleveland and Grand Avenues has an outdoor sign that reads: "Hey freshmen, this is where all the cool people hang out."
Dang, and I've been hanging out in coffee shops all these years.