For three quarters the battle between winless St. Olaf and two-win Carleton College was shaping up to be a game of stout defensive stands and missed opportunities. Two field goals is all the teams could muster for the first 45 minutes, however, the final frame looked like two entirely different teams took the field as the Knights and Oles combined for 24 points in the final 15 minutes, an outburst that ended with the Oles moving out of the ranks of the winless.
Five punts and a missed field goal were the highlights of the first quarter. Each team had the ball three times, with the most significant drive being that of the Oles on their second drive, when they drove 55-yards in 10-plays before stalling at the Carleton 27-yard line. St. Olaf attempted a 44-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide left and the score remained scoreless.
In the second quarter the Knights finally got on the board, when Brandt Davis hit a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 Carleton lead. Quarterback Zach Creighton was the catalyst on the drive, completing a 19-yard pass to Chris Madden and adding runs of 12- and 32-yards.
The Oles responded with the field goal of their own on their next possession. QB Nate Penz led a time-consuming 16-play, 78-yard drive that took 6:11 off of the clock. Penz attempted 12 passes on the drive, completing seven of them for 88 yards before stalling at the Carleton 12-yard line. From there Ezra Coughlin kicked a 30-yard field goal and the game was tied.
Both teams would have some success moving the ball, but could not sustain drives long enough to get into scoring position or could not avoid making costly mistakes. Following the Oles field goal, Carleton missed a field goal attempt of their own that could have given them back the lead. In the Oles second possession of the second-half Penz was intercepted at his own 23-yard line, giving the Knights a golden opportunity to retake the lead. However, the Oles got the ball back on a fourth and goal play when they forced a fumble and recovered it at their own six-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, the game took a decidedly different turn. The Knights got the ball with 4:03 left in the third quarter and marched 56-yards in 12-plays before Creighton scored from two-yards out to provide the first touchdown of the game.
Now that the touchdown threshold had been broken, it was time for the Oles to score one of their own, and they did that on their next possession. Penz led a seven-play, 72-yard drive that was capped-off with a 15-yard pass from the Oles QB to Troy Peterson for the score. In a little over three minutes of time the two teams had scored more than twice as many points than they had in the previous 45 minutes.
Carleton responded to the Oles touchdown by mounting another drive, moving 42-yards in eight-plays before stalling at the St. Olaf 23-yard line. There Davis kicked a 40-yard field goal to put the Knights back on top. The lead would not last.
St. Olaf took the ball at their own 25, and Penz led them on another long drive, this time 75-yards in 10-plays before he threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to one of his favorite targets, running back J. J. Strnad. Strnad was a key to the drive, carrying the ball five times for 25 yards, and adding two more catches for 18 more.
Now up 17-13, St. Olaf would have to lean on their defense and hope they could keep the Knights out of the end zone. They delivered. Carleton moved the ball to their 49, but on a fourth and five play John Bennett sacked Creighton for a seven-yard loss, sealing the victory for the Oles.
Penz had a fine day for St. Olaf, completing 23-42 passes for 255 yards and two TDs. Strnad had 15 carries for 73 yards and Joel Reinhardt finished with five catches for 92 yards to lead the team. On defense the Oles were led by Coleman Foley, who had 15 tackles and a sack. Overall the defense had five sacks, two pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
Carleton travels to Collegeville next weekend to face the St. John’s Johnnies. St. Olaf welcomes Augsburg to Northfield.
By Robert Pannier