Macalester Scots Travel South Looking for Conference Title
This Saturday the Macalester Scots will travel to Jacksonville looking to win the school’s first conference championship in 67 years. No, the team is not traveling to Jacksonville, FL, but is instead going to Illinois to play the Illinois College Blueboys.
Macalester earned their place in the championship game with a 21-13 win over St. Norbert last Saturday in DePere, WI. It was an incredible upset of sorts, considering that the Green Knights had been nearly unbeatable at home over the last five seasons. The atmosphere didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the Scots. “It was a cold and windy day, which I think reduced some of the effect the crowd would have normally had,” explained Coach Tony Jennison. “I think the cold kept some of the crowd away, and that took away some of their home field advantage.”
Another thing that took away that advantage was another quick score from the Macalester offense. For the third straight week the team scored early and rolled to victory. The offense has taken over games recently, and they have played a big role in the team’s success. Coach Jennison believes their play has made the defense even better. “When you score early and you know as a team that you can score it really changes the dynamic of the team. We can play a much more aggressive style of game, and that has been the case the last few weeks.”
The offense has been playing at a very high level, and the defense has responded, allowing just 30 points over the last three games. The team effort has been so impressive that the Macalester football team has not trailed in a game since just after the half against Beloit. That was four weeks ago. The Scots have gone better than 190 minutes either leading or tied, and that makes playing defense a lot easier.
One area that needs to see some improvement is the punt blocking. The Green Knights blocked two punts last week after Carroll blocked one the previous week. “We need to tighten up our blocking schemes for sure. We are making a few mistakes, but we know we can’t be making those kinds of mistakes at this time of year,” explains Coach Jennison.
The win over St. Norbert gave the Scots the North Division title, and now they are looking for the Midwest Conference crown. Standing in their way is a very good Illinois College team. Coach Jennison and his staff realize that this is going to put the Scots and their defense to the test. “They are a really good football team. I don’t think Coach Mullenbach (the team’s defensive coordinator) has slept all week. They are so deep and have such great skill. They are a nightmare for sure.”
The Blueboys boast the No. 1 offense in the MWC. They are averaging better than 40 points per game and over 500 yards of offense. Behind quarterback Michael Bates they have an attack that the Scots have not faced this year. Bates poses an especially difficult challenge for the Scots defense. He is quite possibly the best passer they have seen all year and he can also gain yards on the ground. Bates leads the conference with 2781 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. He also is an incredibly dangerous runner, gaining 580 yards on the ground and eight more scores. His rushing total ranks him 1oth in the MWC.
It is true that the Scots have not seen an offense like the Blueboys attack, but Illinois College has not seen a defense like Macalester’s either. The Scots boast the No. 1 defense in the MWC, creating a classic top offense vs top defense game. For the Scots they hope this match-up goes much like last year’s Super Bowl went – defense dominating the offense.
That will be a great match-up, but for the Scots to win they have to limit the big play on special teams, and they need another huge day out of their combination of QB Samson Bialostok and RB Zandy Stowell. The two have combined to become the most dangerous combination in the conference, especially on the ground. The duo have averaged over 275 yards per game the last two weeks, and both are playing their best football at the most crucial time of the year.
The home field advantage would normally have been a key factor in this game, but the game time temperature is supposed to be in the 30s after being in the 60s for most of the week. The Scots have been in near-freezing temperatures for weeks. The Blueboys will have some adjusting to make.
Saturday the Macalester Scots-Illinois College Blueboys game gives the Scots a chance at their ninth win. It should be an exciting one, but for Macalester to bring home a victory they must control Bates and move the ball on the ground. If the Blueboys cannot hold Stowell and Bialostok under 170 yards rushing they are not going to win this game.
By Robert Pannier