GRINNELL, Iowa – It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.
In Bob Pagel’s debut as head coach of the Carleton College football team, the Knights erased a 14-point second-half deficit and recorded a 20-14 overtime victory at Grinnell College. Fullback Andy Zweber (Sr./Elko, Minn./New Prague) carried the ball only four times but he made the most of those carries, recording touchdown runs of 2, 1, and 6 yards for the visitors. Paul Hoffer (Sr./Plymouth, Minn./Wayzata) highlighted the defensive effort with a pair of end zone interceptions, including one on the game’s final play.
“It was unbelievable,” said Pagel. “The kids kept battling and believing they could win and they made some plays at the end.”
The Knights got off to a slow start with four punts and an interception on their first five possessions. Meanwhile, Grinnell found the end zone twice in the opening quarter as Sam Poulos and Cody Weber connected for scoring tosses of 27 and 28 yards.
“We dug ourselves a bit of a hole in the first quarter, and there were some opportunities for it to get worse,” said Pagel. “But the guys kept playing and playing. They never stopped believing we could come back. Our guys on offense really competed in the second half, and the defense made some plays. Our kids never gave up.”
Late in the first half, Grinnell knocked on the door again, but the Knight defense came up with a momentum-shifting stop. On second-and-three at the 5-yard line, Christian Hansen (So./Pleasant Prairie, Wis./St. Joseph) sacked Poulos for a loss of 11 yards. After a timeout, Hoffer intercepted a pass in the end zone, keeping it a 14-0 score at the break.
Late in the third quarter, Carleton finally got on the scoreboard as Zweber’s 2-yard plunge capped a seven-play, 46-yard drive. The Knights forced the Pioneers to punt and marched 70 yards in 10 plays to knot the score when Zweber slammed in from a yard out early in the fourth.
Late in regulation, though, Grinnell looked to be in position to prevail. The home team had reached the Knights’ 5-yard line with only 90 seconds remaining. Carleton held fast on a trio of rush attempts, and the Pioneers prepared for a 24-yard field goal attempt.
The Knights—who blocked six kicks last season—got a good push up the middle and the kick sailed wide left.
On the opening play of overtime, Conor Lynch (Jr./Salem, Ore./South Salem) ran a bootleg and hit Brian Frett (Jr./Wilmette, Ill./New Trier) for 17 yards. Two plays later, Zweber broke free and scored from six yards away becoming the 11th Carleton running back to tally 3+ touchdowns in a game.
With their possession in overtime, the Pioneers advanced to the Carleton 12-yard line before the Knights came up with some more big plays. On first down Mike Elder (Sr./San Antonio, Texas/Central Catholic) made a great open-field stop of running back TJ Schaid. Two plays later Jonathan Rowe (Sr./St. Cloud, Minn./Cathedral) recorded a sack, bringing up one final, fourth-down play for Grinnell.
Carleton got major pressure on Poulos, and Caleb Hyde (Sr./Rogers, Minn./Rogers) stripped the ball. Poulos scoops it up outside the 35-yard line and heaved toward the end zone…
TThe Pioneers have a wide receiver there, but two Knights race to make a play. Jump ball. Eventually Hoffer comes away with it for his second interception of the game, one off the Carleton record… Knights win!
It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.
The Knights will have a bye next weekend, then host Hamline University in the conference opener at Laird Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. Live video will be available on Knights Online with Gordy Kosfeld calling the action on KQCL 95.9 FM in the Northfield/Faribault area.
NOTE: Bob Pagel is just the second Carleton football coach since 1939 to win his debut game with the Knights.