The Bible tells us: "Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe."
Then there are pessimistic sports publicists like me who have both NOT seen and NOT believed.
Specifically... I can't believe what happens in some Tommie football games that I don't witness.
Twelve seasons back, I ventured back to my alma mater, Iowa State University, to watch a late September football game. St. Thomas was playing football at Carleton that weekend. I thought it was a misprint the next morning when I picked up the Des Moines Register sports section and read the Midwest football scores: St. Thomas 55, Carleton 54. Turns out that the Knights, who missed a potential game-winning two-point conversion in the final minute, set an NCAA record for most points scored by a losing team in a non-overtime game.
In 1997, I missed a season-ending Tommie-Johnnie showdown at the Metrodome to travel to Iowa for the birthday of my ailing Dad. I came back to learn that Greg Kaiser led a 90-yard scoring drive in the final 4:00 and UST edged the Johnnies, 31-27. Oh, and Mal Scanlan announced his retirement as head coach after the game.
Prior to last Saturday, I'd only missed one of approximately 400 home football or basketball games in my 15 seasons as St. Thomas' sports information director. Last Friday I left for a 48-hour trek to Ames, Iowa, this time to be part of a track and field and cross country reunion. It was fun to reconnect with my Cyclone coaches and teammates, many of whom I haven't seen in 28 years.
I just returned to Minnesota -- what did I miss?
OK, I cheated. I made a couple of cell phone calls Saturday afternoon... and learned that I was absent for another Tommie game for the ages. Coach Glenn Caruso's guys pulled out a 33-31 victory over Carleton -- achieved with a touchdown pass on the game's final play.
The Surgeon General is about to issue a stress warning about Tommie football. First came a six-overtime loss vs. St. Olaf. Now a last-play win over Carleton. UST followers and their doctors can be glad that Northfield only has two colleges.
All six conference games thus far in the Caruso era have been decided by eight or less points, and five have been settled in overtime or by three or less points. When Glenn talks about playing 60 minutes, he means all 60 minutes, and even more vs. the Oles.
And what's with all this late-game action? UST's players have mastered the Pride and Passion part. Suddenly to add intrigue, they're throwing in Procrastination. Better late than never, I guess.
It's not unusual to win games with a TD or field goal in the final seconds or half minute, but Saturday might have been the first time in 105 years of varsity football that a Tommie team won with a touchdown on the very last play of regulation. (If anyone knows of any others from pre 1973, please share the details).
It was just the third non-overtime MIAC football game decided by a touchdown on the last snap in the 36 years that the NCAA has charted such plays. The last time it happened in our conference was a 1990 win by Hamline over Gustavus. Bethel beat Hamline 10 days ago on the last play, but that was won with a field goal.
PHOTO: As nervous fans look on, David Sauer makes the game-winning toss. (Photo courtesy Carleton's Eric Sieger)
If someone had told you that a tight end with the last initial "F" would have Saturday's game-winning points, would you have expected the hero to be Carleton's Matt Frank (182 career receptions), or UST's Jake Friederichs (11 career catches)?
Unless your name is Joe, Marla or Glenn, you would have probably said Frank. Just 11 days ago on Oct. 17, Jake, a former interior lineman, had no touchdowns in seven years of prep and college football. Then came a huge end-zone catch against St. John's, and two more on Saturday. Suddenly he has his own YouTube collection.
But that's the beauty of the balanced system run by Caruso, himself a former Division III offensive lineman.
Can this MIAC football race get any stranger? Six teams are still within one game of the lead. Seventeen of the 24 conference games thus far have been decided by eight or less points.
Unusual storylines are all over the place. For football fans at Hamline thus far in 2008, the word "curse" has meaning as both a noun and a verb. Rumor has it that Steve Bartman has been hanging out in the end zone at Hamline games trying to catch errant kicks. That might explain the Pipers' five MIAC losses by a combined 16 points in an 0-6 conference start.
The Tommies bucked one historical trend with Saturday's comeback heroics. St. Thomas football was unable to win high-scoring games. UST was 1-19 since 2001 when an opponent scored 30 or more points. That included nine losses in a row when foes scored 30 points at O'Shaughnessy.
No disrespect to our friends from Carleton, but the Knights did get an indirect compliment Saturday. Have any MIAC football players -- other than rival St. Olaf with the Goat trophy at stake -- ever stormed the field and try to carry the coach on their shoulders after a win over the Knights? Such celebrations after emotional wins over Carleton are usually reserved for soccer, basketball, cross country, ultimate frisbee or quiz bowl.
The big question for the Tommies -- can they put together a November as impressive as their October? UST was arguably one play away from a 4-0 record this month, with the only blemish the bizarre 12-9 defeat to St. John's. October included two fourth-quarter comeback wins over first-place teams ranked in the top 25 this fall, as well as two road wins that spoiled opponents' Homecoming festivities.
In fact if UST can beat Bethel at home on Nov. 8, the Tommies will be 3-0 in Homecoming games this season. Do you think that's ever happened before in the MIAC?
It's happened at least once -- and more recently than you might think. Carleton is 3-0 in Homecoming games this season. Although if the Knights and Tommies continue to play this well under their young head coaches, nobody will be scheduling them for Homecoming in coming years.
Carleton and St. Thomas meet again on Oct. 24, 2009 in Northfield. To continue my karma with Tommie football, Coach Caruso has already encouraged me to take a road trip to Ames that weekend.
Who knows? It might be the best game I never see.
Click here to hear Coach Caruso comments in today's Monday Morning Quarterback segment, compiled by UST's Mike Ekern:
Click here to view Carleton's photo gallery from the Knights' web page: