The concept of the college football rivalry trophy is one of the most nostalgic and heralded traditions in all of American sports. It summons visions of epic battles between historic schools, and heated rivalries that have spanned decades. The University of Minnesota features some of college football’s most famous, including Floyd of Rosedale (Minnesota v. Iowa) and Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Minnesota v. Wisconsin). Carleton has its own traditions kept alive via historic trophies given annually to the victors of rivalry games. Perhaps the most famous in all of MIAC tradition is the Goat Trophy that has been awarded since 1931, after each St. Olaf v. Carleton football game. A more recent institution, the Book of Knowledge has been given to the champion of Carleton v. Macalester since 1998, and on September 7, the Knights were able to bring it home for the first time since 2015.
The Book of Knowledge itself represents the elite academic standards that characterize both schools. As the two most selective schools in the state of Minnesota, it is only appropriate that the annual contest between Carleton and Macalaster be dubbed the “Brain Bowl,” and that the physical representation of athletic superiority incorporate the inherent knowledge of both sides’ players.
Since they first met on the gridiron in 1898, the Knights hold a lopsided 52-9-1 record all-time. As previously mentioned, this is Carleton’s first victory against the Scots since 2015, meaning no player on the current Knights squad had ever experienced a Brain Bowl win.
Carleton was consistently strong on all fronts against Macalester, putting up 48 points, accumulating 474 yards to the Scots’ 219, keeping Macalster off the scoreboard, and seeing excellent play from the special teams unit, highlighted by junior kicker Alex Chertoff’s perfect day from the extra point stripe, in addition to 30 and 24 yard field goals.
The Knights were the beneficiaries of an early Macalester miscue that resulted in the first score of the game. The Scots’ long snapper sailed a ball intended for punter Jon Never, that rolled all the way to the 1-yard line before Never recovered. The Knights downed Never at the 1 and punched in a score on 1 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Beau Nelson to wideout Sean Goodman.
“The momentum shift after the botched snap was huge because it gave our offense confidence and let us put some points on the board early,” offensive lineman Connor Kelly ’22 said of the miscue. “It was also big for our defense because it gave them some breathing room to start the game. We carried that momentum through the entire game and both our offense and defense played phenomenally.”
Nelson, for which the Brain Bowl was his first start under center for the Knights, passed for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns, completing 32 passes along the way. Nelson’s favorite target, senior receiver Mack Journell, caught two of Nelson’s touchdown passes, collecting 181 receiving yards of his own, and providing perhaps the most exciting play of the day, shaking two defenders, hauling in a Nelson pass while falling out of the end zone, while managing to keep a foot in bounds for the score. For his efforts, Journell was awarded the MIAC Football Player of the Week award, as well as being named to D3football.com’s team of the week.
Defensively, the Knights couldn’t have been much better, holding Macalester scoreless. Highlights include senior linebacker Peter Hagstrom’s forced fumble, and dual-sport athlete (football and baseball) Travis Brown’s two interceptions. According to Travis, the Knights came in with a plan.
“Our defensive game plan was just to run the defense schemes we had been perfecting throughout spring ball and fall camp. We knew from lots of film study how we would line up in the different looks and formations they showed from previous games,” said Brown of the Knight’s preparation. “Once we were lined up the defense really just ran itself. A lot of the success we had was due to the relentless effort and pursuit to the ball we had as a unit. We tackled very well throughout the game, eliminated big plays, and we also the ball away a bunch. All of these things together helped solidify the shutout.”
Since the Macalester contest, Carleton posted a 20-10 victory at Lawrence University, and endured their first loss at St. Olaf with the Goat Trophy on the line, by a score of 36-19. The Knights will have their work cut out for them this weekend, facing the fourth-ranked team in NCAA Division IIISt. John’s University. Johnnies v. Carleton kicks off at 1:00 p.m. at Laird Field.