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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Football to fight for MIAC championship title

<ite swirling winds as high as 30 mph and a 5-degree windchill, the Carleton aerial attack was very effective, totaling 372 yards in the passing game as the Knights rallied for a 41-28 victory at Concordia. Carleton scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away for the victory.

Entering the weekend, four teams were tied atop the MIAC standings. Now there are only two. Last weekend’s wins sets up a fantastic regular-season finale as Carleton will host Saint John’s in what will be the conference’s title game. The winner will also secure the MIAC’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Playoffs.

Carleton owned a 27-17 advantage in first downs and built more than a four-minute edge in time of possession. In fact, the Knights held the ball for 21 minutes in the second half and surrendered only two first downs over the final two quarters, helping Carleton snap a 15-year losing streak to Concordia.

“We played with an incredible amount of passion in the second half,” Carleton head coach Kurt Ramler said. “We came out of the locker room after halftime relishing the fact that we were playing football and that we had another half in front of us.

Quarterback Shane Henfling ’09 threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns; this was his seventh career game with at least four scoring passes. He raised his yearly total to 29 touchdown throws, establishing a new single-season school record. He also matched Ted Kluender’s career mark of 50 TD passes.

It’s no surprise that Matt Frank ’09 was on the receiving end of 14 completions, totaling 135 yards and two touchdowns. He broke his own school record for single-season receptions, finishing the day with 79 grabs this season. Frank is now only three receptions shy of Jim Bradford’s school-record 212 catches and has 11 touchdown catches this year, moving him in to sole possession of third place on the single-season list.

The Cobbers amassed 244 rushing yards in the first half, while building a 21-20 lead. But the Carleton defense rose to the challenge, holding Concordia to only 89 yards on the ground after halftime. The Cobbers totaled only 70 yards through the air on 22 attempts.

The Knights, on the other hand, consistently moved the ball and totaled 178 yards of offense in the second half, finishing the day with 424 yards of total offense, the highest amount surrendered by Concordia this season.

Concordia took the opening kickoff and marched 64 yards on eight plays for a touchdown, but Knights answered right back with a 63-yard scoring drive of its own, capped by a 6-yard, Henfling to Chris Gardner ’09 touchdown pass.

Following the first of two interceptions by Carleton safety Neil Kolstad ’11, the Knights quickly returned to the end zone, covering 54 yards on only two plays. Frank completed a 39-yard pass to Dylan Bothun ’11, then hauled in a 15-yard TD toss from Henfling, giving Carleton a six-point lead.

The Knights moved back in front 20-14 when Henfling and Gardner hooked up on their second touchdown of the afternoon, this one from 10 yards out with over five minutes left. It took the Cobbers but one play from scrimmage to re-gain the lead.

At the end of the second half, Carleton used nine plays to go 34 yards and reach the endzone as running back Phil Blue ’10 punched it in from a yard out. Henfling followed by running for a 2-point conversion, giving Carleton a 28-21 lead.

Concordia knotted the score, 28-28 with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter. The Knights’ offense responded like it has so many times this season, immediately putting together a 70-yard drive for what turned out to be the winning score. Blue’s 1-yard plunge pushed Carleton back in front by seven points and the Knights’ defense took over from there.

Bob Pagel’s unit shut down Concordia’s last four drives and did not permit the Cobbers a single a first down. Kane Bechstein ’09 blocked a punt to set up Carleton’s last score, a 7-yard pass from Henfling to Frank with four minutes remaining.

“I have to give kudos to our offensive line,” said Ramler. “That was the best D-line we’ve faced all year, and for the most part they did a wonderful job keeping our quarterback clean. Brett Amick ’10 really stepped up when Ted Longabuagh was sidelined with an injury.”

Additionally, Blue continues to contribute in big ways. “He is solid and tough,” Ramler said. “We know he’s going to run hard. We know he’s going to catch the ball. We know he’s going to get extra yards. He did a great job with pass protection today.”

The Knights have another critical contest this Saturday at 1 PM against Saint John’s. “It doesn’t get any better than hosting Saint John’s in the MIAC title game for the NCAA auto qualifier,” Ramler said.

“We’re going to enjoy it, there’s nothing more to say. It’s great to be in this position. We’ll give it our best shot just like we do every weekend.

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