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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Football own worst enemy in Senior Day loss

< mimicking dust in the wind for a five-week stretch as the nomads of the MIAC, the Carleton football team made its triumphant return to Laird Stadium in time to observe last Saturday’s Senior Day and give its 15 elder statesmen a proper farewell. 

It would have made for quite the glorious sendoff if the team were able to earn the seniors the program’s first ever win over Saint John’s University. If only. The Knights (3-5, 2-4 MIAC) did prove Saturday that they have the potential to hang with the Johnnies, but they did themselves few favors to remain competitive, faltering in the red zone, dropping numerous passes, committing costly turnovers, and failing to capitalize on the Johnnies’ miscues. Though the opportunities were there, the Knights’ self-inflicted wounds ultimately doomed them to a 31-13 defeat.

As an encore for their 307-yard rushing outburst against Macalester a week ago, the Knights only mustered 76 hard-fought yards on the ground against the stingy Johnnie defense. Jon Lien ‘12 was held to only 30 yards rushing, but appeased his fantasy owners nonetheless by running for a score and by leading the team with a career-best 112 yards receiving that included a 56-yard touchdown. Despite several costly drops by his receiving corps, quarterback Vaughn Schmid ’12 threw for a season-best 296 yards and Lien’s score to power the Carleton offense.

The game started on a promising enough note for the Knights, as linebacker Dylan Gessner ’12 hopped on a fumble only a few plays after Saint John’s took the opening kick. In what would become a theme throughout the afternoon, however, Carleton was unable to convert the Johnnies’ slip-ups into points of their own, and went three and out on their first possession.

The Saint John’s offense got it right their second time around, getting on the board with a touchdown run from Jakob Reding. Upon getting the ball back, the Knights responded with their biggest play of the afternoon when Lien took a short pass from Schmid and refused to get pushed out of bounds as he streaked down the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown strike that leveled the score at seven apiece.

Unfortunately, Lien’s big play was about the only highlight in a forgettable first half for Carleton. In their next three possessions, the Knights turned it over on downs, punted, and then were intercepted, all while the Johnnies steadily accumulated points of their own and went into the half with a 21-7 lead. The interception scuttled a potential momentum shift as the Knights failed to take advantage of a rare Johnnie turnover when Tim Mulso ‘11, widely recognized as one of the hardest hitting kick holders in all of college football, forced a fumble that teammate Mike Elder ‘13 pounced on.

Getting the ball to start the second half, the Knights’ offense looked reinvigorated and staged a drive deep into Johnnie territory, giving the Carleton faithful hope that Kurt Ramler might be able to cook up a comeback against his alma mater. On second down from the fifteen yard line, Schmid found a wide-open Kilian Murphy ‘11 in the end zone, but in a play that reflected the Knights’ misfortunes of the day, Murphy dropped the pass and then had the ball bounce off of his foot and into the waiting arms of Johnnie defensive back Kevin Wenner who then took off in the opposite direction.

Neither the Knights nor the game were the same after that. Saint John’s converted Wenner’s pick into a field goal, and soon after turned a Carleton turnover on downs into a touchdown that pushed their lead to 31-7.

A Lien touchdown run on the Knights’ first drive of the fourth quarter concluded the day’s scoring, and temporarily gave Carleton a final glimmer of hope. That hope swelled on the ensuing kickoff when the playmakers on the special teams unit came through with a clutch performance as kicker David Miller ‘13 recovered his own onside kick after it had squirted ten yards.

Yet again, however, the Knights were unable to capitalize on a potentially game-changing play and proceeded to drive the final nail into their proverbial coffin on what would be their last possession. The offense managed to plod downfield and infiltrate the red zone, but soon turned it over on downs for the third time in the afternoon. Facing fourth-and-three from the 19-yard line, Schmid went into warlock mode and shied from daylight before him, opting instead to hazard a pass towards Chase Gottschalk ‘14 that fell incomplete.

Carleton has little time to lick their wounds with its biggest challenge of the season looming on deck. Tomorrow the Knights will do their best to unseat the undefeated and nationally fourth-ranked St. Thomas Tommies when action kicks off from St. Paul at 1 p.m.

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