BY RICH PALZEWIC
DE PERE – There was a whole lot of defense played by the St. Norbert College football team Oct. 6 in its game against Ripon College.
The Green Knights held the Red Hawks to 248 yards of total offense and forced five turnovers in their 30-17 Midwest Conference victory at Schneider Stadium in De Pere.
Ripon came into the contest averaging 342 yards rushing and 460 total yards per game, but they managed just 129 rushing yards against St. Norbert.
The Green Knights (4-1 overall, 1-0 MWC) had posted two consecutive shutouts in games three and four.
“We knew Ripon had a good team and that it would take a full four quarters for us to walk away with a victory,” said St. Norbert head coach Dan McCarty, whose team has now won 19 of the last 20 games in the series. “We had some penalties that really hurt us in both halves, but I’m proud of our guys. Our defense continues to play great football.”
The Green Knights’ offense also did their part in gaining 343 yards and scoring in every quarter.
St. Norbert got on the board with a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Rhodes to a streaking Samuel Staehling down the right sideline with 3 minutes left in the opening quarter.
Before that four-play, 61-yard drive, the Green Knights had just 6 yards of offense on their opening two possessions of the game.
“We did get off to a bit of a slow start, but you never know how an opposing team is going to open up against you,” McCarty said. “We made some adjustments and then things starting clicking. We expected to run the ball a bit more than we did, but Drew Rhodes had a good game throwing the ball.”
Rhodes was 16-21 with 206 yards passing, with 104 of those yards going to Staehling.
Jadon Sackman plunged in from the 1 just 39 seconds into the second quarter to put St. Norbert up 14-0. The score was set up by a 35-yard pass from receiver Matt Galanopoulos to Staehling down to the Ripon 4.
On the ensuing possession, the Red Hawks (3-2, 0-1) were helped by 45 yards in penalties – including two unsportsmanlike infractions – by the St. Norbert defense in converting on a short field-goal attempt.
Spenser Thompson-Meyers kicked a 28-yard field goal and Sackman scored his second of the day near the end of the first half to make it 24-3 at the break.
Ripon’s touchdown in the opening part of the third quarter was set up by a Rhodes interception near the Green Knights’ 40-yard line.
Thompson-Meyers added his second field goal, a 37-yarder, halfway through the third quarter for a 27-10 lead.
After the Red Hawks drove inside the St. Norbert 10 on their next possession, linebacker Matt Gurgone made a big play in sacking quarterback Julian Patton, forcing a fumble and recovering the loose ball.
Thompson-Meyers booted a 27-yard field goal, his third field goal of the game, to end the Green Knights’ scoring with 9 minutes remaining.
Defensively, Nate Essman and Walter McBride had interceptions, while Matt Barrett had eight tackles, including a sack, for St. Norbert.
Jerome Tillis and Blake Oleniczak also had fumble recoveries, but after Oleniczak recovered his fumble at the Red Hawks’ 11-yard line, he eventually fumbled himself, with the ball going through the end zone and out of bounds for a Ripon touchback.
The Green Knights will be on the road for the next two games and won’t return home until Oct. 27 when they host Macalester.
Ripon College: 0, 3, 7, 7 – 17
St. Norbert College: 7, 17, 3, 3 – 30