Tommies overcome midgame lull to roll over Division II Lincoln 43-6

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			Tommies overcome midgame lull to roll over Division II Lincoln 43-6
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St. Thomas’ football game against Division II Lincoln University (Calif.) on Saturday afternoon at O’Shaughnessy Stadium began as though it was going to be a blowout. It ended in a blowout, with the Tommies improving to 2-1 with a 43-6 victory.

In between, enough went wrong for the Tommies to know that they will have to play better moving forward, with Pioneer Football League play beginning next Saturday with a game at Marist.

“I don’t think I have to walk into our meeting tomorrow at noon and say, ‘Guys, there’s a lot of things we have to clean up,’ ” Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said. “These guys understand that. But, they also understand it because the level of expectations is so ridiculously high.

“But as a guy on the sidelines who can see (offense, defense and the kicking game), one side of the ball’s shortcomings are not affecting the two other sides of the ball.”

Lincoln, based in Oakland, Calif., began its football program last year. The Oaklanders have been taking their lumps ever since, but the Tommies insist that they didn’t allow complacency to creep into their game

“We knew they had great athletes,” Tommies linebacker Luke Herzog said. “Their running back is a former All-American at the FCS level. We knew they were dangerous if we took them lightly. I don’t think we’re looking to take any games off.”

Caruso pointed to two lost fumbles and the inability to get the ball into the end zone from inside the red zone on two occasions as things that need to get better.

The Tommies have scored on their first drive in each of their first three games this season, but they have not been able to sustain that success.

“We’ve been great from the jump,” said quarterback Cade Sexauer, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. “Where we need to grow now is drives two, three, four, five, where we’ve been hitting that lull.”

For Sexauer, that means “cleaning up the little things,” which will eliminate the Tommies beating themselves, be it on a drive, or, down the road, in a game.

Defensively, Herzog said the Tommies were hurt by some missed assignments, including one of his own.

“We didn’t always do an amazing job of getting off the field,” Caruso said, “but we did enough to put the offense on some shorter fields.”

The Tommies scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, with Sexauer throwing touchdown passes to Jacob Wildermuth and James Klecker. But St. Thomas sputtered on both sides of the ball after that and took a 15-3 lead into halftime.

After a Lincoln field goal, the Tommies added a safety when Herzog tackled the ball carrier in the end zone. On the ensuing free kick, Andrew McElroy nearly ran it all the way back, getting pushed out at the Lincoln 3. Shawn Shipman rushed for a touchdown on the next play for  a 24-6 St. Thomas lead.

The Tommies then blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to finally gain control of the game.

“Every time someone comes into Palmer Field at O’Shaughnessy they are going to play their absolute best or one of their top-two games of the year,” Caruso said. “It’s happened for nine or 10 years now. And that is a blessing. We work very hard to have the privilege of pressure. But it also allows us to go to work, go to work, go to work.

“Eventually, if you do your job well enough, and long enough, things sort of open up. That’s what you saw today, maybe five to eight minutes into the third quarter.”

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