Monday, November 18, 2013

Carleton Knights

This past Saturday, Amy, Hannah and I drove to Northfield to watch Carleton play their last football game of the year.  The opponent was Augsburg. 
This was the second game the three of us have seen the Knights play this season.  We drove to St. Paul to see the Carleton open their MIAC season against Hamline.  The Knights pulled that one out in overtime.  I wasn't present to see that as the red heads had convinced me to leave when Carleton was behind in the 4th quarter.  As a Knight junky I listened to the game at home while Hannah rolled her eyes in disbelief. 
I had thought the season would be a success if we could win our non-conference games plus beat a conference rival in addition to Hamline.  That mission was accomplished before Saturday’s game.  The Knights defeated Grinnell, Macalester, and won the Goat Trophy back against St. Olaf, who is having a down season.  We had also given a scare to St. Johns and Concordia at home.  This was progress—incremental, but still progress.
Coming into the game Augsburg was only one game better than Carleton; however they had played a close game against Bethel and St. Thomas, the best teams in the conference.  I wasn't optimistic.
It rained during the drive and was still drizzling when we pulled up to Laird Stadium.  Amy and Hannah didn’t want to get out of the car, so I walked by myself under an umbrella to join a few hundred folks who appreciate Division III football.
Augsburg took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter behind the outstanding play of their quarterback, Ayrton Scott.  Even when the Knights scored a touchdown, Augsburg ran back the kickoff for a touchdown.  In fact I was texting a friend that Carleton had scored and by the time I had finished the text Augsburg had scored on the kickoff. 
In the second quarter I ran into an old teammate, Troy Ethan.  He was two years behind me and was inducted last summer into the Carleton Athletic Hall of Fame.  We stood under our umbrellas and screamed our lungs out for most of the game.  We even did some recruiting for Carleton at halftime.
For most of the game it appeared that our screaming would not help the Knights.  We stayed in the game, but barely.  Carleton was behind by two touchdowns at halftime and seventeen points entering the fourth quarter. 
Carleton scored at the start of the fourth quarter to make the score 38-28 in favor of Augsburg.  After that touchdown I told Troy that I could see Carleton winning, 42-41.  I had hardly finished my sentence when Augsburg again ran the kickoff back for a touchdown. 
Carleton scored another touchdown and was fortunate when the ensuing kickoff rolled to a stop at the one yard line.  Augsburg had to start their drive at the three.  The Knights held and got the ball back with a little over four minutes.  In a little over a minute Carleton scored and got a two-point conversion.  45-42 Augsburg.  Could some Knight magic be in store?
Augsburg went conservative and Carleton forced a punt.  With a long runback the Knights were suddenly in business at the Augsburg 37 with a little under three minutes to play.  How had this happened so fast?  Soon after Carleton faced a fourth and six.  This was the play of the game.  Conor Lynch threw a pass to Anthony Kemper who was wide open over the middle.  Kemper ran down the middle of the field for a T-O-U-C-H-D-O-W-N.  Somehow Carleton had scored four touchdowns in less than ten minutes.
By this time it was pouring rain and the sky had gotten very dark.  The atmosphere was more conducive to building an ark than watching a football game.    
Troy and I are experienced Carleton football fans meaning we’ve had our hearts broken many times before.  It didn’t look good as Ayrton Scott quickly drove Augsburg down the field in the pouring rain.  An inexplicable unsportsmanlike conduct (which almost caused me to lose my voice as I yelled at the official—nothing profane, of course) and a completed pass gave Augsburg the ball at the Knight 23.  Scott dropped back to pass and dropped the ball, which had to be slippery.  F-U-M-B-L-E!  Knights R-E-C-O-V-E-R!  Knights W-I-N!!
I slapped Troy’s hand in jubilation with the passion of a linebacker blitzing the quarterback. 
Most of the time I walk away from Laird Stadium in a sour mood wondering why I attend the game.  But this long-suffering player and fan was jubilant on Saturday.  I did a dance in front of our car—where Amy & Hannah had camped out for most of the second half—and drove home with a huge smile on my face.
I’m still not sure why I get so worked up about a Division III football game in late November, but it sure was a terrific way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

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