NEW ULM - After blowing a halftime lead, Martin Luther College took a fourth-quarter shootout and turned it into a 35-32 win against Minnesota-Morris in the school's Homecoming game on Saturday.
The Knights (3-5, 3-4 UMAC) earned the win despite turning the ball over six times to finish with a -4 turnover margin.
"We almost didn't [overcome it]," said MLC coach Doug Lange. "If we were on the other side of the score, I would have said the most important factor besides the score are turnovers. It hurt us all the way through - poor special-teams plays and turnovers."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Martin Luther College quarterback Luke Rothe dives into the end zone during the first quarter of the Knights’ Homecoming football game against the University of Minnesota Morris on Saturday at MLC in New Ulm.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
However, Lange said his team succeeded in controlling the ball while getting the stops it needed against the Cougars (2-6, 2-5).
With 9:03 remaining in regulation, MLC quarterback Luke Rothe marched the Knights down the field 82 yards in a 10-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Matthew Olson - his second of the quarter.
"Matt can do it all," Rothe said. "He's a very strong kid, tough kid who will get that short yardage. But if you don't wrap him up, he's going to bust it - he's had plenty of long runs this year."
The drive took 4:33 off the clock, giving the Cougars one shot to either tie or take the lead with a 4:30 window to do so.
However, the Knights stopped the Cougars on fourth-and-10 from the MLC 28-yard line as Rothe, in at defensive back, batted a pass intended for UMM receiver Brendon Foss in the end zone to turn the ball over on downs.
"It was personnel," said linebacker Nick Kressin. "We had a huge play by Dan Schmidt making the tackle on the screen on our sideline - did a fantastic job seeing it and running to it. We just brought in our long-distance package and it was great."
Kressin suffered an MCL tear in the Knights' 50-14 loss to Eureka (Ill.) on Oct. 12, but returned to the field with a knee brace for this game. He said the knee brace did not affect the way he played on Saturday.
Kressin finished with six total tackles to drive his season total to 56, which was overtaken by lineman Ben Ewings' nine-tackle performance to put him at 57 for the team lead.
Olson also had some trouble with injuries the week before in a 48-12 loss to St. Scholastica. Lange said the running back was on crutches at that game having sustained a leg injury.
"We thought he had actually broken a leg," Lange said. "Up until Tuesday, he was a no-go for this week. So we were actually doing running back-by-offensive linemen - we had two offensive linemen run in his spot."
Lange said Olson was feeling better by Wednesday before being cleared to play by Thursday.
Olson finished with a game-high 149 rushing yards off 25 carries for two rushing touchdowns. He also had a 39-yard reception for a touchdown - the second of two jailbreak screens that caught the UMM defense off guard resulting as touchdowns to give MLC a 21-12 lead into halftime.
"It's an old thing we pull out of the hat once in a while and we hardly ever use it," Lange said. "I almost called a timeout to tell them about it because I called the play. Our dive back, Matt Olson, he's supposed to actually block the defensive end, but he knew to slip out on that one."
Morris regained the lead in the third quarter with two rushing touchdowns - one by running back Dustin Spohn from 3 yards out and the other by quarterback Donnie Mavencamp from 26 yards out on a fourth-down desperation scramble.
"From their side, you saw that they wanted to win, you saw them play with heart," Kressin said of Morris. "We knew it was going to be a close game down to the end and they came out and played a heck of a second half at the beginning."
Rothe finished with 312 yards total offense - 178 passing, 134 rushing - with two passing touchdowns and one rushing.
MLC will play its final two games on the road, first at Crown College (3-5, 3-4) on Nov. 2 and then at Westminster (2-6, 2-5) on Nov. 9.
"We're going to ride this into the last two games," Rothe said. "We've got middle-of-the-pack teams, they're very winnable games. We're just going to finish the season strong."
UMM 6 6 13 7 - 32
MLC 7 14 0 14 - 35
MLC - Rothe 8-yard TD run (Reinemann PAT good), 9:34 - UMM 0, MLC 7
UMM - Mavencamp to Dower 22-yard TD pass (Adel PAT blocked), 7:55 - UMM 6, MLC 7
UMM - Mavencamp to Foss 7-yard TD pass (2-pt. conv. no good), 12:01 - UMM 12, MLC 7
MLC - Rothe to Rathje 32-yard TD pass (Reinemann PAT good), 11:00 - UMM 12, MLC 14
MLC - Rothe to Olson 39-yard TD pass (Reinemann PAT good), 7:06 - UMM 12, MLC 21
UMM - Spohn 3-yard TD run (Adel PAT good), 13:36 - UMM 19, MLC 21
UMM - Mavencamp 26-yard TD run (2-pt. conv. no good), 7:53 - UMM 25, MLC 21
MLC - Olson 1-yard TD run (Reinemann PAT good), 11:51 - UMM 25, MLC 28
UMM - Mavencamp to Peterson 17-yard TD pass (Adel PAT good), 9:03 - UMM 32, MLC 28
MLC - Olson 1-yard TD run (Reinemann PAT good), 4:35 - UMM 32, MLC 35