St. Thomas and St. John’s have a college football rivalry at its peak when they take the field Saturday.
Yet, neither the players nor the fans can ignore the somber tone of the St. Cloud area this weekend. Everyone will take a moment of silence before kick-off in Collegeville to remember the Crossroads Mall stabbing victims and Jacob Wetterling.
It called leadership from both Catholic universities to ask their respective fans attending the game to remain mindful of the community. A memorial service for Wetterling will take place in St. Joseph on Sunday at the College of St. Benedict.
“Everyone visiting the area this weekend is asked to be respectful of the St. Joe community by keeping the campuses and streets clean, and by showing restraint and respect for a community in grief,” UST vice president for student affairs Karen Lange said in a press release.
UST athletic director Steve Fritz said that he’s seen good conduct at Tommies-Johnnies football games in the past, but the current events warranted the request. The MIAC rivals drew 17,000 last year in Collegeville when ESPN came out to cover pregame festivities.
“That certainly was a fun thing for the students to get involved in,” Fritz said.
Fritz anticipates about 15,000 on Saturday in the biggest Tommies-Johnnies clash yet. Both come in ranked in the top six nationally for NCAA Division III with 3-0 records.
St. Thomas (3-0, 1-0), ranked No. 4, once again has a high-scoring offense with 53.7 points per game. Defense likewise looked dominant in its first three outings with 11 points and 190.3 yards allowed per contest.
St. John’s (3-0), ranked No. 6, will test both. The Johnnies allow eight points and 179.3 yards on average. Offense poses a threat both ways 200-plus yards rushing and passing in addition to 44 points per outing.
Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said his team’s main key to victory is, “first and foremost, us playing our type of game, which I think is crucial.”
Notably, both teams have Division I transfers playing quarterback. Penn State transfer Jackson Erdmann, a former Rosemount high school standout, starts for the Johnnies. St. Thomas actually has two Division I transfers at quarterback, but they back-up starter Alex Fenske.
Jaques Perra, a transfer from Minnesota and one-time Roseville star, has seen time under center with the Tommies. Southern Mississippi transfer Gabe Green has also seen snaps.
St. Thomas still has another former Division I player in the backfield with running back Jordan Roberts. Injuries have left Roberts’ status in doubt though. He didn’t play the previous game against Carleton College.
Either way, the Tommies won’t slow down in the running game. Tucker Trettel and Emitt Peisert average 5.2 and 4.3 yards per carry in 19-plus attempts.
UST again has depth across the board. Whether it’s Division I transfer under center or ample talent elsewhere, Caruso likes the depth his squad has.
“We win a lot more games because people embrace the roles that they’re given,” Caruso said.
That’s what they’ll look for on Saturday. The two rivals kick-off at 1 p.m.