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« CSN National All-Stars, 11/10/2008FCS Recap: The Scores »

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MIAC Football Week Eight: Knights, Jays to Battle for Championship

floated rightby Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist

Entering the eighth week of league play, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title race was wide open, with possibilities ranging up to a six-way tie for the top spot. After Week Eight, the championship picture is crystal clear: the winner of next week’s Carleton-Saint John’s game is the MIAC’s outright champion. The loser of that game falls into a three-way tie for second.


The Knights assured themselves a shot at the title by defeating Concordia 41-28. The Johnnies positioned themselves for a chance for the crown with a 28-21 win over Augsburg. St. Thomas assured themselves of a share for second place by downing Bethel, 36-20. St. Olaf prevented rival Gustavus from earning a piece of title by beating the Gusties 27-20 in two overtimes. In non-conference action, Hamline retained the Paint Bucket by hammering Macalester 52-7.

After two months of glorious fall weather, the temperatures around the league plunged to the 20s at kickoff, with wind-chills dipping below zero. Players and fans alike were undeterred, as the action on the fields of the MIAC remained intense and invigorating.

The Knights combined a potent passing game with a stingy defensive effort- particularly in the second half – to overcome the Cobbers on a blustery, frigid day at Concordia.

Shane Henfling threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns to lead the attack. Matt Frank hauled in 14 passes for 135, while Chris Gardner had eight catches for 79 yards. Phil Blue caught six passes for 66 yards and rushed for 84 yards and a pair of scores as the Knights moved closer to their first MIAC championship since 1992.

However, the biggest key to the Knights’ win was the defense. After yielding 244 yards to the Cobbers’ vaunted running game in the first half, Carleton limited Concordia to 89 yards in the second half to sew up the win.

For the Cobbers, Cory Johnson rushed for 151 yards and Justin Brantner added 93 yards.

Concordia drew first blood on the game’ s opening drive, as Brantner bounced off the line and then slipped around the left end for a one-yard touchdown run. With the PAT, the Cobbers led 7-0.

The Knights took the ensuing kick and marched 63 yards on eight plays to score. Henfling spotted Gardner open across the middle and rifled the ball to him for a six-yard TD. The PAT failed and Concordia maintained a 7-6 lead.

Three plays later, Neil Kolstad notched the first of two interceptions, getting Carleton the ball back near the midfield stripe. On the next snap, Henfling pitched to Frank who in turn lofted a pass to Dylan Bothun for a 39-yard gain. On the next play, Henfling’s missile led Frank into the end zone, and the Knights took a 13-7 lead.

Concordia regained the lead midway through the second quarter as Jesse Nelson capped a 61-yard drive by firing a pass 19 yards to Jake Krause at the goal line. Krause bumped off his defender for the TD.

Carleton retaliated with a 59-yard drive, which Henfling punctuated with a 10-yard scoring pass to Gardner to make it 20-14.

The Cobbers wasted little time reclaiming the lead, as Johnson broke loose on the first play of their next drive, scampering 61-yards to pay dirt, sending Concordia into the intermission with a 21-20 lead.

Midway through the third quarter, Kolstad picked off his second pass of the day, setting Carleton up at the Concordia 34-yard line. (Hear Kolstad discuss the game here)

Henfling and the offense patiently moved the ball over the next nine plays before Blue dove over the defenders from one-yard out, giving Carleton the lead. Henfling bootlegged in for the two-point conversion, putting the Knights on top, 28-21.

On Concordia’s next play from scrimmage, Brantner scooted downfield for a 61-yard gain. Two plays later, he burst through the middle for a ten yard touchdown, tying the game.

Carleton mixed a variety of short passes and screen passes to move the ball 70-yards on a drive that continued into the fourth quarter. Blue dove over the line again from one-yard out, this time giving the Knights a lead they would not relinquish.

Henfling and Frank connected for a seven-yard insurance TD; the PAT was blocked, making the final, 41-28. (Listen to Henfling talk about the win here)

The win lifts Carleton to 7-2 overall and 5-2 in MIAC play. They share the league lead with Saint John’s, their opponent in Saturday’s finale. The game will pit Knight Coach Kurt Ramler against his alma mater and his mentor, SJU Coach John Gagliardi in a winner-takes-all showdown.

“It doesn’t get any better than hosting Saint John’s in the MIAC title game for the NCAA auto qualifier,” Ramler said. “We’re going to enjoy it, there’s nothing more to say. It’s great to be in this position. We’ll give it our best shot just like we do every weekend.”

Concordia slips to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in league play. They close out the 2008 season at Gustavus on Saturday, with the winner assured a share of second place and the loser dropping into a tie for fifth.

The Johnnies converted a pair of interceptions into touchdowns and came from behind to defeat the Auggies in front of 4,169 at SJU.

The win turns next week’s season finale at Carleton into a de facto MIAC title game, giving the Jays a shot at their 30th conference title.

Joe Boyle completed nine of 16 passing for 101 yards and a touchdown, and added 47 yards and two second-half rushing touchdowns to lead SJU.

Augsburg’s Jordan Berg connected on 30 of 53 passes for 328 yards, with three touchdowns. Mike Nourie led the Auggies’ receivers with 10 catches for 119 yards, while Royce Winford had six catches for 109 yards and three touchdowns.

Berg and Winford connected for a 16-yard scoring play late in the first quarter to give Augsburg a 7-0 lead.

The Johnnies tied the game on an acrobatic 15-yard touchdown reception by Bryan Busack early in the second quarter, punctuating a 10-play, 55-yards drive.

The game remained tied until late in the third quarter when Boyle scrambled in from 12 yards out, putting the Johnnies on top to stay at 14-7.

On Augsburg’s next possession, John Stanton picked off an errant pass. Boyle engineered a drive that converted that into a TD, carrying the final four yards himself, giving SJU a 21-7 lead.

Augsburg need just two plays to cut the gap as Berg connected with Winford for a 63-yard touchdown with 13:31 left to play.

Midway through the final period, Derek Stifter picked off a pass and returned it to the Auggie 19. On the first play from scrimmage after that, Jeff Schnobrich burst through the line and darted into the end zone, putting Saint John’s on top, 28-14 lead with 9:29 left.

Augsburg countered with an 11-play, 82-yard drive that Berg punctuated with a two-yard touchdown pass to Winford with 1:24 remaining.

The Johnnies recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.

With the win, SJU is now 5-2 in league play and 725 overall. They travel to Carleton on Saturday for the season-ending showdown.

The loss drops the Auggies to 5-4 on the year and 3-4 in MIAC play. Augsburg concludes its season on Thursday night, hosting Bethel at the Metrodome.

ST. OLAF 27, GUSTAVUS 20 (Two overtimes)
The Oles tied the game with 0:36 to go and Coty Watkins dove in from two yards out in the second overtime to lift St. Olaf over the Gusties. The loss ended Gustavus’ title hopes. It was the Oles’ sixth consecutive win in the rivalry series.

The game was the Oles’ third overtime game of the season. They defeated St. Thomas in six extra periods on Sept. 20 and lost to Saint John’s in the first overtime two weeks ago.

Watkins rushed for 131 yards on the day to lead St. Olaf. Jon Haberman connected on 18-of-33 passes for 179 yards and one TD.

For Gustavus, Jordan Becker completed 15-of-33 passes for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Chad Arlt hauled in seven of those for 124 yards. Ray Wilson led the ground game with 72 yards rushing.

Midway through the first quarter, St. Olaf’s Tyler Jones forced a fumble on a punt return and recovered the ball. His action led to a 34-yard field goal by Pat Wadzinski, giving St. Olaf a 3-0 lead.

The Gusties took a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter as Becker connected with Blake Noenning from ten yards out.

That held up until late in the third quarter when Evan Endsley sprinted in from 17 yards out to give the Oles a 10-7 lead.

The teams traded field goals in the early part of the fourth quarter, as John Ostertag drilled a 37 yarder for GAC and Wadzinski countered with a 32 yarder, giving St. Olaf a 13-10 edge.

Becker connected with Noenning for a 58-yard scoring bomb to give GAC the lead, 17-13. Ostertag split the uprights from 25 yards out to increase the Gusties’ lead to 20-13 with 3:02 to play.

On the ensuing possession, the Oles methodically moved the ball down field. On the ninth play of the drive, Haberman hooked up with Ryan St. John for a 10-yard TD with 0:36 showing on the game clock. Wadzinski tied the game by acing the PAT.

Gustavus had the ball first in OT, but turned the ball over on an interception. St. Olaf attempted a 37-yard field goal on its possession, but the kick was blocked.

In the second overtime, the Oles started on offense and gave the ball to Watkins four times, the last a one-yard score to make it 27-20.

The St. Olaf defense held firm and sacked Becker on a fourth down pass to seal the win.

With the loss, Gustavus falls to 4-3 in MIAC play and 6-3 overall. They close out the season on Saturday, hosting Concordia in what will be Coach Jay Schoenebeck’s final game at the helm at GAC.

St. Olaf improves to 5-4 overall and 3-4 in league play. The Oles travel to Hamline for their season finale.

Greg Morse came off the bench to spark the Tommies to a come-from-behind win over the Royals in front of 2,300 at UST’s Homecoming.

The win assured St. Thomas of a share of second place.

Morse, who came into the game with Bethel leading 13-0, connected on 11-of-16 passes for 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Fritz Waldvogel caught seven passes for 75 yards and was on the receiving end of two TDs. Colin Tobin rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown and Ben Wartman added 125 yards and a score.

Logan Flannery led the Bethel attack, rushing for 95 yards. Josh Aakre added 40 yards and a TD on the ground as well as completing 5-of-15 passes for 39 yards.

The Royals scored first as Tim Cornish picked off an errant David Sauer pass and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown. Bethel later took advantage of excellent field position after a short UST punt gave the Royals the ball at the UST 33. Five plays later, Aakre scampered in from three yards out. The PAT failed, but Bethel led 13-0.

Morse entered the game and engineered a second quarter drive that stalled at the Bethel nine-yard line. Eric Taylor drilled a 26-yard field goal to put UST on the board, trailing 13-3.

A short punt by Bethel gave the Tommies the ball at the BU 24 later in the second quarter. Morse needed just two plays, both passes, to find the end zone. His second pass was a five yard toss to Tommy Becker, normally a linebacker but in at wide out, for UST’s first touchdown of the day, cutting the gap to 13-10.

Late in the first half, Morse connected with Waldvogel for a 19-yard scoring strike, sending UST into the intermission with a 17-13 lead.

Bethel took the opening kick of the second half and patiently marched down field, using 13 plays to cover 65 yards. Aakre capped the drive with an 18-yard scoring pass to Aaron Bernstetter, lifting the Royals to a 20-17 lead.

Two plays later, Tobin broke free for a 72-yard scoring run, putting St. Thomas in the lead for good, 24-20. On Bethel’s next possession, UST’s Jacob Lewis recovered a fumble at the Bethel 26. Four snaps later, Mike Duncombe completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Waldvogel. The PAT failed, but UST led 30-20.

St. Thomas added an insurance score as Wartman scurried in from eight yards out to close out the day’s scoring.

With the win, UST improves to 6-3 overall and 5-3 in MIAC play. They complete their season on Saturday with a non-conference skirmish with Northwestern (MN).

Bethel falls to 4-5 overall and 3-4 in league action. The Royals conclude their season Thursday night against Augsburg in the Metrodome.

HAMLINE 52, MACALESTER 7 (non-conference)
James Leary ran for three touchdowns and threw for 216 yards, while Derek Johnson tallied 10 points on kicks- four PATs and a pair of field goals- to lead the Pipers to a 52-7 on-conference win over Macalester. With the win, Hamline snaps a seven game losing streak and retains possession of the Paint Bucket, symbolic of supremacy in the Snelling Avenue rivalry.

Five different Pipers recorded scores in four touchdowns and a field goal tallied by Hamline in the first half, starting with 13-yard touchdown run by Leary. After a Mac TD and a Hamline field goal, Ben Johnson scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 37-yard reception from Leary with eight minutes to play in the half to give the Pipers a 17-7 lead.

The Pipers followed with three rushing touchdowns, a six-yarder Larry Deeton, an 11-yarder by Jack Madryga and a one-yard plunge by Leary, to take a 38-7 lead into halftime.

Hamline added two touchdowns in the third. The first on Leary’s third rushing score on a one-yard keep. With less than one second on the clock in the third, Deeton ran in his second touchdown of the day, this one from four yards out.

Leary was 17-for-22 on the day with 216 yards and one passing touchdown. He was the Pipers’ leading rusher with 108 yards.

The Pipers are now 2-7 overall. Hamline returns to league action, hosting St. Olaf on Saturday, in their last game of the 2008 season.

* * *

2008 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Standings
Through games of November 8, 2008

                        Conference   Overall   
  Team                  W  L     W   L    
  ----                  -  -     -   -   
Carleton College        5  2     7   2
Saint John's University 5  2     7   2    
Univ. of St. Thomas     5  3     6   3   
Gustavus Adolphus       4  3     6   3    
Concordia College       4  3     5   4
Bethel University       3  4     4   5  
Augsburg College        3  4     5   4    
St. Olaf College        3  4     5   4  
Hamline University      0  7     2   7 

Thursday, November 13, 2008
Bethel vs. Augsburg - 7 PM (HHH Metrodome)

Saturday, November 8 2008
Saint John’s @ Carleton- 1 PM
Concordia @ Gustavus- 1 PM
St. Olaf @ Hamline -1 PM
St. Thomas @ Northwestern (MN) - 1 PM (non-conference)