Zandy Stowell & Samson Bialostok Run Own Production of ‘Odd Couple’ for Macalester Scots
Most college students today don’t remember a television show called The Odd Couple, so a little enlightenment is in order. The show was about two men, one a sports writer (Oscar), the other a professional photographer (Felix), who both wind up divorced. Felix is the one who is divorced last and asks to move in with his friend. The comedy of the show was that while these two were good friends, they could not have possibly been more different, yet, they figured out a way to make their lives work together.
The Macalester Scots football team will take the field this Saturday against Knox College with their own “Odd Couple,” RB Zandy Stowell and QB Samson Bialostok. No, the differences between the two are not as dramatic as one being a complete neat freak while the other is a total slob, but these two young men are two very different people, who come together as friends, students and teammates to guide a football program that is going through a renaissance of sorts, and they are the master artists helping to make that transformation occur.
To understand the impact these two are making, a little history lesson is in order. In 2010, the Scots had their first winning season in 24 years. Prior to that, the Macalester team was known more for futility than for football excellence. From 1974-1980 the Scots had lost a national collegiate record 50-games in a row, and were even rated by ESPN as the second worst college football team of all-time.
When Coach Tony Jennison came in he began to change the culture of the school and its football program. With the help of the school administration a new focus on excellence in all aspects of the college was pushed, which aided in the improvement of the team.
After finishing 6-3 in 2010 (by the way, six wins was the second most in a single season in school history), the Scots were a respectable but sub-.500 team in 2011, going 4-5, then rebounded in 2012 to go 6-4.
In 2013, Bialostok and Stowell gained the starting positions of quarterback and tailback, and it looked like the two were going to be the dynamic duo that the school had desired for over a half-century. They rolled out to a 2-1 record, but Stowell broke his foot in the first quarter of their fourth game, and for the next three weeks they struggled to recover. The team lost to Mayville State in that fourth week contest, and then were beaten soundly by Carleton and Chicago, before losing 7-0 to Washington University. A bright season became a distant memory quickly, but the uber-competitive Bialostok was not giving up by any stretch of the imagination imagination. He helped to rally the team to wins in two of their last three games, including a huge win over Hamline University to end the season, giving the team a 4-6 record.
The loss of their bruising running back had clearly hurt the team. He led the Scots with 241 yards rushing through three weeks and was averaging better than 4.5 yards per carry. The onus to carry the team had fallen on their star quarterback, and he delivered. Bialostok led the team on the ground with 699 yards and six touchdowns, and added 1301 more through the air with eight touchdown passes. As the season progressed the then junior QB got stronger and more in command of the offense. He posted 100 yard rushing games in three of the last five contests, and it was clear that he had taken over this team. He was not Mr. Scot, but he clearly was the head engineer of the Scots offense.
While both players can find some satisfaction in last season’s performance, they both feel it was a season of missed opportunities. This year they intend to take full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. Not only are the two back together leading the Scots offensive charge, but Macalester will be playing conference games for the first time in over a decade. No longer is Macalester College an independent school, but is now part of the Midwest Conference, a change that is both exciting and challenging. “During last week’s game against Grinnell, we were losing 16-13,” Bialostok explains. “Ryan Flannigan said to me, ‘This is our season right here,’ and he was right. A loss and our season may have been over right there, but we battled back and won.”
It is a new kind of pressure the team is under, and the two stars of their offense understand the pressure and responsibility that they both take-on now. “We understand that we not only have a responsibility to the younger guys to be good role models,” Bialostok points out, “but that we have a responsibility to the school and to the community to stay out of trouble and do our best. We want people to know we are students who play football.”
Stowell agrees with his teammate and added, “Coach J (Jennison) really stresses the three ‘R’s’ with us: Be respectful, be responsible and have great relationships. I think that means treating people well and building relationships with others around the campus that lets them know we value them and respect them. We may be more visible as football players, but they have just as much value as any one of us.”
Respect. The two clearly understand that respect and trust is something they need to show to their teammates in their roles as leaders, and that it is something that they have earned from their coaches.
In the team’s first game of the season the Scots were tied with Carleton College with 20 seconds left in the game. They were over 60 yards away from the end zone, but Coach Jennison took the advice of his offensive coordinator, Marc Davies, and decided to go for the win in regulation instead of playing for it in overtime. Bialostok admits that he entered the field completely shocked that he was not going to simply take a knee, but he then saw what his offensive coach had seen. The deep post would be open if he could hit it, and his coaches knew he could. Ten seconds later he completed a pass play down to the 21-yard line and the Scots won on a last-second field goal. Trust is what these two have earned, and trust is what the coaching staff is happy to give them.
While the two have become good friends and make one of the most dynamic duos in the conference, they are also two men who are an “Odd Couple” in their own right. Bialostok is clearly the one who is more vocal and seems incredibly comfortable talking in any situation. The star QB is impressive off the field as well, majoring in both economics and Chinese. He sees himself as an intermediary one day between China and America, where he can help businesses move into new markets and build relationships.
Stowell, on the other hand, is the quiet one. He is a hulk on the field, but off the field he is a mild-mannered guy who seems a bit uncomfortable when the limelight is shone on him. The physics major has recently began studying math as well with future aspirations of being an engineer one day. It is easy to see him in a lab one day working in a small group quietly creating some new technological innovation that makes millions, while Bialostok is on CNN discussing a new trade agreement between the United States and China.
While there are many dissimilarities to the two in terms of personality, both of these two are incredibly smart and incredibly talented football players who thrive well together. They have built a sixth-sense between them that allows them to function as one heart, one mind, on the field in the way that they attack opponents.
While the two players wear jersey Nos 1 and 2, it is clear that their importance is 1A and 1B, and both have a genuine appreciation and respect for each other. For Bialostok, it was clear that he had great admiration for his backfield partner. “There is not another guy I would rather have next to me when taking the snap than Zandy. It amazes me the things he does on the field, especially the little things. I just think of his blocks. Sometimes I get distracted on plays just watching how he cuts someone down. He is the total package on the field, and his blocking is definitely overlooked.” Even off the field the QB raves about his RB’s performance. “It is like a light-switch changes off the field. He is relaxed and quiet, never cocky, a very humble guy for sure.”
Stowell has an equal amount of admiration for Bialostok. “As a quarterback, he has that natural leadership ability. He is incredibly competitive, a special player, who inspires us to play to the whistle because he never quits. He turns negative plays into 40-yard gains, and keeps us believing that the ball is going to move down the field.” Stowell finds a genuine appreciation for his quarterback off the field as well. “He is a great guy to be around away from the field. He is always smiling. Just an awesome friend, an awesome teammate.”
The Macalester Scots enter Saturday’s game against Knox College with both teams 2-1. While the defense will be called upon to hold down the Prairie Fires’ offense, there is no doubt that the team’s “Odd Couple” will play a significant role in bringing a victory home. While the two may be different in many ways, one thing that is for sure is that they know how to get an offense moving. Don’t be surprised to see the Knox College Prairie Fire defense turned into a smoldering ash by the time these two are done with them.
By Robert Pannier
Read Rob’s story about Coach Jennison here.