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Johnnies Answer Knights' Late Score, Snatch MIAC Title

November 15, 2008 at 3:50 pm

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NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- Carleton’s Matt Frank (Sr./Caledonia, Minn.) soared over two defenders and snared a 4-yard touchdown pass with less than a minute left to give the Knights a 10-7 lead, but Saint John's (8-2, 6-2 MIAC) drove 62 yards in a little less than 40 seconds, capped by a 22-yard touchdown catch by running back Jeff Schnobrich from Joe Boyle, to give the Johnnies a thrilling 14-10 win over the Knights.

The win gives the Saint John's the MIAC title outright–and with it the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Playoff–and denies Carleton its first conference crown since 1992. The Knights finish the season at 7-3 overall (5-3 MIAC), tied for second in the conference standings.

Head Coach Kurt Ramler and his staff did a remarkable job during what was Carleton's best season in 16 years. The Knights knocked off a pair of top 25 teams and earned the program's first national ranking since 1992. Carleton is 14-16 over under Ramler after going 27-93 in a dozen seasons prior to his arrival. In fact, the 7 games the Knights won this year equals the program’s second-highest win total over the last 50 seasons.

A star-studded class of 18 seniors suited up for the final time for Carleton, including Frank who broke Jim Bradford’s career reception record in the second quarter and finished the day with 11 grabs for 98 yards and the touchdown. He also owns the single-season mark (90 receptions for 990 yards this year), which is particularly impressive given that he missed nearly eight quarters of action with a shoulder injury. Frank concludes his record-breaking career with 220 receptions for 2,766 yards and 26 touchdowns. A dozen of those scoring catches came this season, one behind Bradford and Chris Gardner’s (Sr./Gaylord, Minn./Sibley East) school mark.

Carleton quarterback Shane Henfling (Watkins, Minn./Eden Valley-Watkins) also played his final college game, going 28-for-44 for 231 yards. He finished with a school-record 3,045 yards this season and 4,967 in his career, the fourth-best total in the program’s history. His final collegiate pass was his 51st career touchdown toss, breaking Ted Kluender’s school record. Henfling also established new Carleton single-season (66.8%) and career (62.8) marks for completion percentage. Each of his records is especially impressive since he’d attempted only five passes before becoming the starter as a junior.

Schnobrich finished with nine catches for 134 yards and the game-winning score. He also carried the ball nine times for 46 yards. Saint John’s quarterback Joe Boyle rushed for one touchdown and threw for the other as he completed 18-of-33 passes for 260 yards and two interceptions.

The Carleton defense–which had all three starting linebackers out with season-ending injuries–came up with five sacks and a pair of Kane Bechstein (Sr./Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview) interceptions in the end zone. Unfortunately the Knights were unable to get a stop on the final drive. In each of the Knights’ three defeats this season, the winning points were scored with less than 20 seconds remaining or in overtime.

Carleton found it difficult to get points on the scoreboard against the seventh-ranked defense in the country. The Knights best drive of the day up to that point ended at the doorstep to the end zone. Although it appeared that Henfling was able to pickup the necessary yardage on third-and-1 from the two-yard line, Carleton ended up turning the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter.

The Knights though had found their rhythm. After forcing a Saint John’s punt, Carleton marched 84 yards on 16 plays for its first lead of the contest. Henfling was 6-of-10 on the drive for 40 yards and rushed three times for 26 more yards. On third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Henfling lofted the ball to the right corner of the end zone and Frank leapt above a pair of Johnnies to snare the go-ahead score with 50 seconds remaining.

Saint John’s though had just enough time to mount a comeback, going 62 yards for the game-winning score. Boyle completed all five passes on the drive, including four to Schnobrich.

Carleton safety Drew Ziller (Sr./Byron, Minn./Rochester Lourdes) totaled 12 tackles (five solo) on the day, and for the second consecutive season, paced the MIAC in tackles during conference play. He finished the year with 103 tackles, with 88 of them coming in MIAC action.

The Carleton running game surpassed the century mark for the fourth time this season, out-gaining the Johnnies and grinding out 107 yards. The Knights had surpassed the 100-yard mark only three times over the previous two seasons combined. Junior running back Phil Blue (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) tallied 114 all-purpose yards today, including eight receptions for 46 yards.

Following this gut-wrenching defeat, the Knights must now set aside their playbooks and focus full-time on their textbooks as final exams for the fall term begin next Saturday, Nov. 22.