NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- The Carleton College football team rang in the 2013 campaign in style as they scored 20 points off turnovers and racked up 501 yards of offense en route to a 29-10 win over the Grinnell College Pioneers. Quarterback Conor Lynch (Sr./Salem, Ore./South Salem) completed 14-of-22 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target of the game, Anthony Kemper (Sr./Prior Lake, Minn./Prior Lake), caught eight balls for 154 yards and two scores.
“I thought it was a good win for us,” said Carleton head coach Bob Pagel. “We did some really good things out there. Almost everyone got a chance to play and contribute. The boys played hard together and got a great win for us.”
The Knights got things going early when, on Grinnell’s (0-1) second possession of the game, safety Dan Cook (Jr./Inver Grove Heights, Minn./South St. Paul) read quarterback Sam Poulos’ eyes and snagged an interception at the Pioneer 41-yard line.
Carleton (1-0) capitalized immediately on the good field position. On the first play after the turnover, Lynch heaved a 41-yard bomb that Kemper hauled in before diving into the endzone to put the Knights up, 6-0, with 11:13 to go in the first quarter.
Grinnell responded with a good return and a 37-yard drive to bring them to Carleton’s 23-yard line. Faced with a fourth-and-one, the Pioneers elected to go for it, but were stymied by the Knights’ defensive line, as Jonathan Rowe (Sr./St. Cloud, Minn./Cathedral) wrapped up Polous for the first of his 2.5 sacks.
The Pioneers’ next threatening drive came in the second quarter, when they drove down to the Knights’ 23-yard line. On 3rd-and-7, Poulos scrambled forward, where linebacker Zach Heinrich (Jr./Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park) knocked the ball loose. Jake Boerma (Fy./Watertown, S.D./Watertown) recovered the fumble.
On Carleton’s ensuing drive, Lynch threw a screen pass to Chris Madden (Fy./Kenosha, Wis./St. Joseph), and the rookie scrambled 60 yards down the right sideline, spinning out of tackles and following his blockers all the way into the endzone to lift the Knights to a 13-0 lead.
The Knights got a chance to test out their two-minute offense late in the half. Taking the ball with 2:12 until halftime, Lynch led Carleton on a six-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kemper, allowing Carleton to carry a 20-0 advantage into the break.
The Knight defense came up with four turnovers on the day, including pair deep in Carleton territory. In the third quarter, Rowe recovered a fumble on the one-yard line and later in the fourth, Josh Estes (Sr./Chicago, Ill./Walter Payton) stepped in front of a Poulos pass at a similar spot.
Following the final turnover, backup quarterback Zach Creighton (Fy./Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North) took the offense for a spin, rattling off a nine-play, 91-yard drive that ended when he delivered a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brian Frett (Sr./Wilmette, Ill./New Trier) increasing Carleton’s lead to 29-3 with only 2:46 remaining in the contest.
“Turnovers were huge,” said Pagel. “They had some momentum going, but the turnovers were timely, and we were very fortunate to get those.”
Poulos and the Pioneers finally found the endzone with 12 seconds remaining in the contest to make the final score 29-10.
In addition to the air attack, Carleton also benefitted from a sturdy ground performance from John Baker (Sr./Minneapolis, Minn./Breck), who carried the ball 28 times to the tune of a career-best 145 yards, averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry.
“The guys up front did a great job wearing down Grinnel’s defensive line and helped us establish a run game which was critical to our success,” said Pagel.
Several players had showcase games for the Knight defense, including Luke Reppe (Jr./Northfield, Minn./Northfield), who led the squad with 14 tackles, while Estes added 10 to his interception.
Poulos finished 36-of-59 for 334 yards with two interceptions and the touchdown. Jacob Meixler led the receiving Pioneers’ corps, snagging 12 passes for 105 yards.
Carleton heads into its bye week but returns to the gridiron on Saturday, Sept. 21 as the Knights travel to Hamline University in the MIAC-opener at 7:00 p.m. Live audio will be available via Knights Online and Power 96 (KQCL 95.9 FM).