This season was going so well for first year head coach James Kilian and St. Olaf football. Three consecutive conference wins during the heart of its schedule, including a pulse-pounding victory against longtime rival Carleton, gave the Oles their best conference record since 2012. Standout performances from veteran players such as receiver Troy Peterson ’18, who was second in the MIAC with 81.6 receiving yards per game, and from younger contributors like Khayleb Willis ’20, who was a revelation at running back with four 100+ all-purpose yard performances, provided the team with excellent leadership and optimism for the future. Though competing in the postseason with the best of Division III was still out of reach, after what seemed like an eternity, St. Olaf football finally carried some momentum.
Then St. Thomas came to campus and washed that sense of hope down with a bitter aftertaste. No, your eyes do not deceive you – the Tommies dominated from the opening seconds of the game, never letting up on their way to a 97-0 demoralizing rout of the Oles. The subtext of the final score doesn’t read much better: 326 St. Thomas rushing yards dwarfed St. Olaf’s 9, 29 Tommie first downs eclipsed the Oles’ 5 and a staggering 596 difference in total yards is simply abnormal. If this were baseball, these are what we would call “crooked numbers.” The fact that the game took place on Ole Pride day only added insult to injury.
Look, it’s obvious from the lopsided contest that St. Thomas possesses a more dominant football team than St. Olaf does – anyone who claims otherwise is simply in denial. A major question that remains, however, is if the Tommies went too far.
Evidence would indicate that the answer is “absolutely.” Normally the team on the winning end of games such as this would remove their starters the moment it becomes obvious that the contest is relatively out of hand. However, entering the third quarter with a 64-0 lead, the Tommies kept elite starting quarterback and MIAC star Jacques Perra ’20 in for an additional series to score another superfluous touchdown.
St. Thomas attempted three two-point conversions despite its massive leads, the last of which came in the second quarter when the score was already a convincing 41-0.
Despite never being seriously contested, the visitors went for fourth-down conversions five times, all successful, the final one taking place late in the game after the Tommies held a surreal 91-0 advantage. Finally, instead of taking a knee to run out the clock during the final drive, St. Thomas opted to keep piling it on, scoring a rushing touchdown with seven seconds remaining in regulation.
Despite accusations of poor etiquette, opposing coach Glenn Caruso insists in an interview with WCCO that the scoring wasn’t excessive.
“We do everything we can to make sure that we put our guys in the best possible situation, as they do,” Caruso told WCCO. “I can’t control whether or not they want to extend the game, which obviously they were very comfortable doing ... I’m going to do everything I can to make sure [our team] is in the best possible situation. At the end of the day, it’s really not serving the game well if you don’t play your hardest.”
Therefore, it may behoove the MIAC to explore reinstating a mercy rule that was abolished in 2001, one that allows a running clock at all times, even outside of play, to speed up the contest. However, for now, Kilian and the Oles will have to do their best to overlook this blip on the radar, examining and ultimately returning to the brand of football they executed so proficiently during an inspirational midseason run.