Courtesy of Carleton Athletics
- Sometimes, coming home isn’t all it’s built it up to be.
Playing at Laird Stadium for the first time since the Cannon River flooded five weeks ago, the Carleton College football team suffered from missed chances Saturday as visiting Saint John’s University totaled 502 yards of total offense en route to a 31-13 victory.
With 15 Carleton players competing in front of their home fans for the final time, the Knights (3-5, 2-4 MIAC) came out strong on Senior Day, challenging the Johnnies (5-3, 4-2 MIAC) for much of the first half, but SJU turned interceptions on each side of halftime into 10 points and pulled away for the win.
Saint John’s drew first blood on Jakob Reding’s three-yard touchdown rush midway through the first quarter, but the Knights quickly responded as running back Jon Lien (Jr./Lindstrom, Minn./Chisago Lakes) caught a swing pass near midfield then broke a tackle and raced 56 yards down the sideline to even the score at 7-7.
Early in the second quarter, the Carleton offense looked poised to take a lead after quarterback Vaughn Schmid (Jr./Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi) converted a big third down to tight end Brian Frett (Fy./Wilmette, Ill./New Trier) and ran for another first down, but the drive stalled nine yards out of the redzone when three straight incompletions gave the Johnnies the ball on downs.
SJU running back Stephen Johnson carved up the Carleton defense on the ensuing drive, logging a pair of first down runs before taking a pass from Joe Boyle 23 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 Johnnie lead eight minutes before the half.
After a Carleton punt, the Knights’ defense came up big as senior linebacker Tim Mulso (Welcome, Minn./Martin County West) stripped SJU receiver Sam Pederson of the ball and Mike Elder (So./San Antonio, Texas/Central Catholic) recovered the fumble. The offense could not reward the effort, however, as Ian Goldsmith intercepted Schmid near midfield, setting up Reding’s second touchdown run of the day with just 22 seconds remaining before intermission.
Trailing 21-7, the Knights opened the second half with an impressive drive, and were inches from cutting the SJU lead to one possession, but Schmid’s end zone pass to Kilian Murphy (Sr./Eau Claire, Wis./Regis) glanced off the receiver’s hands before popping off his knees and into the air. Kevin Wenner capitalized on the miscue, picking off the loose ball and returning it 25 yards, a momentum shift that proved fatal for Carleton.
Six minutes later, a methodical Johnnie drive ended in Jimmie Matson’s 30-yard field goal and a 24-7 SJU lead,
Saint John’s added to its advantage early in the fourth quarter on Boyle’s four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Overman.
The Knights offense reawakened on the following drive, as back-to-back first-down passes from Schmid to C.J. Dale (So./Fox Island, Wash./Charles Wright Academy) set up Lien’s two-yard touchdown plunge. After a failed two-point conversion attempt kept the score at 31-13, Carleton’s special teams turned in a dandy when David Miller (So./Dayton, Ohio/Oakwood) recovered his own dribbling on-sides kick, poising the Knights for a possible comeback with over nine minutes still remaining.
Once again, however, Carleton wasted a golden opportunity. After driving to the SJU 19-yardline, the Knights went for it on a fourth-and-three but came up short as Schmid ignored running space in the Johnnie line and threw incomplete to Chase Gottschalk (Fy./Independence, Minn./Orono), ending Carleton’s hopes for the upset.
Schmid ended the day with 296 passing yards, the second highest total of his career, while Lien notched a career high with 112 receiving yards on six catches. A week after rushing for 307 yards against Macalester, the Knights’ offense totaled only 76 yards on the ground against the stout SJU defense.
The homecoming is brief for Carleton, as the Knights head back to the road next Saturday, taking on No. 4 University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. with a live audio broadcast available from Knights Online as well as Power 96 (95.9 FM) in the Northfield/Faribault area.