NORTHFIELD, MINN. - There were moments early in the second half when it looked like Carleton College was capable of a monumental upset, but in the end, the relentless rushing attack of No. 19 University of St. Thomas was too much for the Knights, as the visitors pulled away late for a 48-28 win.
Carleton (3-4, 1-4 MIAC) tied the game 14-14 midway through the third quarter when linebacker Tim Mulso’s (Jr./Welcome, Minn./Martin County West) diving interception at midfield set up a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Vaughn Schmid (Mahtomedi, Minn.)
Following the score, the Knights barely missed recovering a sneaky on-sides kick, but the scare woke up the Tommie offense, which found the endzone on five of its next six possessions and went on to outscore Carleton 34-14 for the remainder of the contest.
Carleton’s 28 points were the most allowed by St. Thomas (6-1, 5-1 MIAC) all season as the Knights outgained the Tommies 400-394 in total offense on the day. Schmid threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-40 passing for the Knights, while Anthony Kemper (So./Prior Lake, Minn.) caught seven passes for a career-high 123 yards and his team-leading seventh touchdown grab of the season.
Ultimately, however, the Tommie ground attack was too efficient, with the visitors averaging 6.8 yards per carry en route to six rushing touchdowns. St. Thomas never put together a drive longer than nine plays, as Ben Wartman led a multi-headed attack with 124 yards and two scores.
The game appeared to be heading the direction of a Tommie rout initially, as Fritz Waldgovel returned the opening kickoff 74 yards for a touchdown to put the visitors up 7-0. Later in the quarter, Colin Tobin’s 18-yard touchdown run, his first of two scores on the afternoon, made it a 14-0 game.
The Knights got on the board on their next possession, though, as rookie Paul Hoffer (Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata) gave the offense a boost with a 40-yard kick return, and Schmid ran for 24 yards on the ensuing drive, including a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Both defenses stiffened up in the second quarter as neither team scored again before halftime. The Tommies drove deep into Carleton territory on their final possession of the half, but Neil Kolstad (Jr./St. James, Minn.) picked off Greg Morse in the end zone with 3:40 remaining to silence the threat.
The interceptions continued when the teams returned from the locker rooms, as the Knights opening drive of the second half ended when Kyle Mulrooney picked off Schmid near midfield. Just three plays later, however, Mulso’s athletic snag of a Morse pass gave the ball back to Carleton and positioned the Knights for Schmid’s second touchdown run of the day.
In similar fashion to a play that shifted the momentum of the Knights’ upset win over nationally ranked Augsburg last year, head coach Kurt Ramler, hoping to catch the opponent off guard, called for an on-sides kick after the score. David Miller (Fy./Dayton, Ohio/Oakwood) lifted the ball past the requisite 10 yards and seemingly into the arms of the dashing Kemper, but the sophomore never officially gained possession, and the Tommie return team knocked the ball to the ground and swarmed on it.
Starting on the Carleton 46-yardline, it took only four Wartman rushes, including gains of 13 and 31, to put St. Thomas back on top. After the junior, who entered the game ranked first nationally in scoring, hopped into the end zone from two yards out to put his team up 20-14, the Tommies botched the snap on the PAT attempt, keeping their lead at six for the moment.
The Knights’ offense had no response, though, and St. Thomas quickly scored again. Dakota Tracy entered the game at quarterback and promptly found a hole in the Carleton defense, dashing 53 yards for the score. With the PAT kick good this time, the Tommies went up 27-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
Following another Carleton punt, St. Thomas continued to tack on. Tracy’s 48-yard bomb to Nick Gleisner brought the Tommies deep into Knights territory, and the quarterback finished the job himself with another touchdown rush, this one from 12 yards out to put the visitors up 34-14 with 11:41 remaining in the contest.
After the teams traded punts, Carleton cut the deficit to two scores when Schmid, who was shaken up and forced to leave the game during the previous drive, rediscovered his accuracy and completed four-of-five passes including a 15-yard touchdown strike to running back Phil Blue (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North). It was the senior captain’s first points of the year.
Trailing 34-21, the Knights attempted another on-sides kick, but Miller’s tap went out-of-bounds and the Tommies capitalized. With a Carleton illegal procedure penalty on the kick giving them an even shorter field, St. Thomas needed just one play as Wartman raced in from 34 yards, making it 41-21 with 4:29 left on the clock.
The Knights answered again as Schmid found Kemper for a beautiful 46-yard touchdown, but Carleton’s third on-sides attempt failed as well, with Wartman snatching up the kick and exploiting the awkwardly positioned Knights for a 28-yard gain. After winding down the clock with several short rushes, St. Thomas iced the win on Tobin’s second rushing score of the game with 1:52 remaining.
Despite the undesirable result, the outsized Knights fought admirably against the powerful Tommies, who remain in second place in the MIAC standings after No. 5 Saint John’s defeated St. Olaf, 10-3, to remain perfect on the year.
For the Knights, Jon Lien (So./Lindstrom, Minn./Chisago Lakes) tallied 81 yards rushing on 12 carries for an impressive 6.8-yard average, while Erik Fabry (So./Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) caught five passes for 54 yards in addition to his busy day as punter. Dylan Gessner (So./Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.) led the Carleton defense with eight tackles.
The Knights will look to get back in the win column next Saturday as they travel to St. Paul for a 1 p.m. contest with Hamline University.
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