Last week, the Marist Red Foxes opened up their offensive strategy and took advantage of a flustered Drake Bulldogs defense in a 30-25 win. In their opening contest of PFL play, Marist looked like they were having fun on offense, and there was an energy that wasn’t illuminated in their first two performances.
Sophomore quarterback Brock Bagozzi showcased why he won the starting role after throwing for 257 yards and achieving the triple crown with three different types of touchdowns scored – one passing, one rushing, and one receiving touchdown.
Drake will be in the lower echelon of PFL opponents Marist faces, and the University of St. Thomas will certainly pose more of a challenge at Tenney Stadium this Saturday at noon as part of the Family Weekend festivities.
How did St. Thomas fare last season?
St. Thomas remarkably finished fourth in the PFL in their first season of Division I play after historically competing in Division III athletics. They finished 2021 with a 7-3 overall record and a 6-2 conference mark. They often won in gritty ways, as they didn’t feature a potent offense but had an excellent defense.
They scored just under 25 points per game while featuring a winning percentage of over .700. This was a feat shared only by Columbia (who obliterated Marist 38-3 two weeks ago) and the University of Iowa in the FBS.
St. Thomas’ defense ranked near the top of Division I (FBS and FCS) in multiple categories, including takeaways. They averaged 2.7 takeaways a game, which ranked first in all of Division I, which includes 254 member schools.
In their meeting last year, St. Thomas took full control of Marist, rushing for over 288 yards against the Red Foxes and limiting Marist’s offense to seven points, winning 27-7.
I reiterate this – 2021 WAS THEIR FIRST YEAR OF DIVISION I PLAY.
How do the Tommies look so far this season?
The Tommies have begun their 2022 campaign 2-1 in three nonconference games. Early on it seems like they have a much-improved offense while retaining the quality of their juggernaut defense. Their two wins have come in blowout fashions in games where they scored north of 30 points.
The main caveat with these offensive performances is the fact that they were done in two meetings against Division II opponents – Michigan Tech and Lincoln University (California). Unlike Marist, which started against two astronomical opponents compared to their quality (Georgetown and Columbia), St. Thomas took the opposite approach, so we will see how each strategy plays out in the long term.
St. Thomas usually relies on their junior running back Hope Adebayo, a player who led the team in rushing last year. The issue is that he hasn’t gotten any carries since their opening week loss to FCS school Southern Utah.
Luckily for the Tommies, they have found good production from sophomore Shawn Shipman to take that load. In his first career start against Michigan Tech, Shipman rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns. We will see if Shipman’s success translates against tougher Division I opponents.
Two key matchups
A key component of St. Thomas’ offense that the Marist coaching staff must be scouting is their stout rushing attack. The Marist linebackers will have to be on their toes and not miss as many tackles as they have missed the first three games of the year.
Expect some amped-up play from Red Fox linebacker Mike Arrington, who was just recently named a national semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, an award that goes to the best football scholar-athlete in America. This is the trophy that is considered the “Academic Heisman”. Arrington has 22 total tackles to start the season, and he will be key in ensuring that runs don’t expand into home runs.
On offense, it’s simple. Marist can’t turn the ball over. The Tommies’ roster is full of instinctive defenders who always see the ball and attempt to make plays on it. The Red Foxes have lost the ball seven times thus far, so they are very much prone to giving it away. This is a killer pairing, so Marist must be extremely focused on protecting the football and avoid giving the St. Thomas offense more opportunities to blow the game open.
This game is definitely a matchup where I see Marist head coach Jim Parady being more conservative with the football, so the Red Fox running game must be in peak form. This includes the offensive line, a group that has had a rough time creating a push to give their backs some space to operate.
Breakdown and prediction
It’s tough to judge a team like St. Thomas this early in the season because I feel like their numbers have been inflated due to the quality of their opponents. However, based on their returning roster and how that roster performed last year, I expect a difficult St. Thomas team for Marist to overcome.
If the Red Fox offense can keep rolling the same way they did against Drake, they will have a chance. That won’t be a guarantee based on the quality of the St. Thomas defense, but I still think it will be a closer affair.
I still don’t believe Marist will have enough to come through in the end, however.
St. Thomas 21, Marist 13
Edited by Jonathan Kinane