MIAC Featured Game of the Week: Coach’s Wisdom Gains Macalester Scots the “Book of Knowledge” Trophy
For the 61st time in the two schools history, the Carleton Knights and the Macalester Scots squared off against each other in a battle of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) foes. The Knights have owned a decided edge over the years, dominating the series 51-8-1, including victories in the last 11 meetings. Since 1998 the winner of the rivalry game has been awarded the “Book of Knowledge” trophy, with 13 of the 16 decisions going to the Knights. The game had the feel like the Knights may take home the trophy one more time, but thanks to the wisdom of offensive coordinator Marc Davies, the trophy resides in St. Paul for the first time in 12 years.
The first quarter saw both teams move the ball well on their first drives, yet come away with no points. Carleton began their opening drive at their own 35-yard line, but after getting a first down, the drive stalled and the Knights were forced to punt. Eric Williams had a nice 38-yarder that Victor Bordo could only return two yards, and the field looked mighty long for Macalester.
The Scots were up to the task however, as they methodically moved the ball down the field, with the assistance of a couple of big plays. The first of those was a huge 17-yard run off the right-side of the line where Zandy Stowell was sprung by a huge block by wide receiver Ben Hillman. Six plays later QB Samson Bialostok hit Hillman with a 15-yard strike to put the ball at the 15-yard line. With first and ten, the Scots could only get six yards and were sitting at fourth and four. Macalester coach Tony Jennison had a tough choice to make, and decided to go with the “aggressive” option, selecting to keep his offense on the field instead of attempting the chip shot. The coach had committed himself to the idea that he was not going to settle for 3-points when he could get 7, so the offense remained on the field to try for the touchdown. Bialostok threw a perfect pass that would have been a first down, but it was dropped, and the drive stalled.
Carleton took the ball at the 9, and moved it to their own 41 before they were forced to punt. Eric Williams punt took a great Knights bounce, finally rolling out of bounds at the Scots 11-yard line.
This was the challenge that Macalester faced early. Both of their first two drives started inside the 20, giving them a long field to have to work with. Seven plays later they were punting again, giving Carleton good field position to start their third drive of the game, this time starting at their own 31.
With third down and eight to go, Carleton QB Zach Creighton went back to pass, but was sacked by Ryan Flanagan who forced a fumble that was quickly scooped up by Reid Callahan. Callahan then found his way to the Carleton 23 before finally going down. The defense had come up big, and given the Scots incredible field position.
The Scots went with three straight runs, needing four yards to get a first down. With the ball at the Carleton 17, Coach Jennison chose the aggressive option again, leaving his offense on the field. Bialostok went back to pass and had a wide open Ben Hillman heading toward the corner of the end zone, but his pass was just out of the reach of Hillman and fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs for the second-time in the game.
Carleton regained possession, but they would not have it for long. Once again the defense of Macalester came up big. On a broken play Creighton scrambled, but as he got across the line CB Bolton Howes made a great play to strip the ball from the Carleton QB. Howes literally ripped the ball from Creighton’s arms and held on as the two were going down to give the Scots the ball again.
This time the team from St. Paul would not be denied. Keeping to the ground, Bialostok took the third play of the drive and scrambled his way through the defense and into the end zone for the touchdown. It was an outstanding athletic run that staked Macalester to a 7-0 lead.
Both offenses stalled during the remainder of the second half, as the defenses really stepped up their play, and took control of the line of scrimmage. The Scots defense created a huge turnover when QB Eric Williams’ pass was intercepted by Ethan Carpenter, who returned the ball 26-yards to the Carleton 11-yard line. A huge red zone opportunity was there for Macalester, but Bialostok’s first pass was picked-off in the end zone for the touchback, ending the threat.
The Scots would attempt one last drive to end the first half, taking the ball at their own 38 and driving to the Knights 34, but the half came to an end, and both teams headed to the locker room with Macalester leading 7-0.
The Scots got the opening kick-off of the second-half, and returner Victory Bordo gave his team incredible field position, taking the ball to his own 42 before going out of bounds. It was the sparkplug his team needed. Bialostok, who had struggled in the first half, going 5-15 with 2 turnovers, caught fire during the drive. Davies had a great offensive scheme, mixing in a perfect amount of runs and passes to keep the Knights off-balance. The Scots QB hit Hillman twice for first downs to move the chains and keep the drive moving. With the ball at the 18, Sam Bordo burst through the line and kept his feet moving until he had reached the goal-line and in for the touchdown. Macalester was feeling very confident after taking the 14-0 lead.
Carleton was doing very little against the stout Scots defense, but a broken coverage got the Knights on the board. With first and ten at their own 37, Creighton hit a wide-open Colby Seyferth at the 50. Seyferth then did the rest on his own, racing to his left and down the field for the 63-touchdown, and just like that the Knights were on the board.
The drive brought new life to the Carleton side-line, and it was sophomore running back Chris Madden who was leading the charge. On the last play of the third quarter Madden had a 14-yard burst to move the ball to the Scots 44. The offense continued to move, reaching the Scots 30, where Madden had a 6 yard run to make it second and four. The Macalester defense crept up to shut down the run, but Creighton threw a six-yard out pass to Dane Birkeland for the first down, setting up the Scots with a first down at the 18. A personal foul moved the chains to the nine, to make first and goal, but two runs by the Knights quarterback yielded just three total yards. Creighton then threw a perfect slant pass to Pete Dehkes that had touchdown written all over it, but CB Konnor Fleming made an unbelievable defensive play to bat down the ball and make it fourth down. Carleton coach Bob Pagel had a tough choice to make himself and opted to go for the field goal, but his kicker missed the 23-yard attempt and the score remained 14-7.
Macalester’s drive quickly stalled, and the Carleton defense was back on the field. They were tiring, and it was showing as Creighton was having much more time to throw the ball, and he was taking advantage. Colby Seyferth was his favorite target, making grabs of 17 and 12 yards to move the team to the Macalester 15. Madden rushed for four yards, moving the ball to the 11, then Creighton kept the ball on a designed quarterback run, scoring on the play and tying the game.
The momentum was clearly with the visitors, but the home team got a big pick-me-up when the ensuing kick-off was returned to the Carleton 40-yard line by Fleming. An illegal block in the back penalty moved the ball back, but only to the Carleton 47. The Scots moved the ball to the 39, setting up a fourth and two yards to go situation. Another tough call for the Scots coach, and after a timeout he decided to go for it with just 1:50 left in the game. Bialostok handed the ball off to Zandy Stowell, but the Knights defense read the play the entire way, and stuffed the running back for a two yard loss, turning the ball over on downs. It was another great play by the Carleton defense, who had given up touchdowns primarily because of the field position they were given to defend.
The Knights took over the ball and quickly moved down to the Macalester 31, but a fourth and four run that would have earned the first down was called back on a holding call, making it fourth and nine. Pagel did not want to give the ball up, even if it would have been with just a few seconds left in the game and with the Scots pinned deep. He decided to go with the aggressive choice to win, calling for a pass-play, but Creighton’s pass to Birkeland was broken up and the ball was turned over to Macalester.
With 15 seconds left in the game, Jennison was content to take a knee and go to overtime, but Davies convinced his head coach that the middle of the field had been open all game, and it was time to take a chance with it. It was a brilliant call. Bialostok hit Hunter Johnson down the seam for a 42-yard gain, putting the ball at the Carleton 24. After a spike, Stowell rushed four yards to put the ball in the center of the field, and for the first time on the day, the Macalester coach turned to his kicker, senior Michael Abramson.
Abramson had not attempted an in-game field goal since high school, and that was more than four years ago. The pressure was on the senior, who is the Scots field-goal kicker for the first-time since entering the school. Most would have crumbled under the pressure, but showing what his coach described as a great deal of “moxie,” the senior drilled the 37-yard field goal for the first game-winner of his career, and sent the Scots to the 1-0 record. It was an absolutely clutch field goal, and one that sent the Macalester faithful into a frenzy.
For Jennison it was a big moment as well. Entering his seventh season, the coach had never beaten the Knights and was looking to take his team to a new level after last year’s quality 6-4 season. Clearly he got one monkey off of his back, and hopes that this will be the spring board that takes his team to that new level. As the coach put it, “This is no longer a team that teams run up the score against. Those days are over.” The losing streak was also over for many of the seniors, who had never beaten Carleton in their time at Macalester.
Stowell had a huge game for the Scots, carrying the ball 22 times for 114 yards, a 5.1 average. Bialostok did not have a huge game passing, completing only 13 of his 29 passes for 158 yards, but his 42 yarder to Hunter was brilliantly thrown, and resulted in the game winner. He also added 86 yards on 15 carries. Johnson was the leading receiver with 7 catches for 95 yards.
While the offense put up an impressive 413 total yards, it was the defense and the scheme designed by defensive coordinator Marshall Mullenbach that really made the difference. The Knights finished with just 274 yards of offense and only had 113 yards rushing. The Macalester defense created two turnovers and had two sacks. They were the difference in the game, that made two huge stands in the second half that led to the Abramson game-winner.
Macalester will go on the road next weekend to face Hamline University, while the Knights welcome Knox College to town.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Football Writer Covering the MIAC
MIAC Featured Game of the Week