BY SNC ATHLETICS
ANGOLA, INDIANA – The St. Norbert College football team turned in yet another strong defensive effort in a 31-7 victory over Trine University in a first-round NCAA Division III playoff game at Fred Zollner Athletic Stadium Nov. 17.
The Green Knights (10-1) will face UW-Whitewater at noon Saturday, Nov. 24, at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater in a second-round game. Trine, ranked No. 12 in the D3football.com Top 25, saw its season end at 10-1.
St. Norbert’s defense, which scored two touchdowns 19 seconds apart in the third quarter, took the ball away from the Thunder six times and held the potent Trine offense to just 173 yards of total offense – with 79 coming on the last two series of the game with the outcome effectively decided. The Thunder was averaging 461 yards of total offense per game coming into the contest. Trine’s standout running back Lamar Carswell, who was leading Division III in rushing yards per game at 218.4, was held to 110 on 32 carries.
After Trine had taken a 7-0 lead on a defensive touchdown, St. Norbert responded with an impressive 12-play, 75-yard match, with 11 of the plays coming on the ground. Drew Rhodes plunged in from one yard out to knot the game at 7 with 5:57 left before halftime.
Five plays later, Mike Olijnyk forced a fumble and recovered it at the Trine 14. St. Norbert needed just three plays to score, with Rhodes again scoring from a yard out late in the half for a 14-7 lead.
St. Norbert had a second-half drive stall at the Trine 17 and missed a field goal, but Trine fumbled the ball back to the Green Knights on the next play that would lead to a 19-yard field goal by Spenser Thompson-Meyers halfway through the third quarter.
The Green Knights’ defense continued the pressure, with Matt Gurgone intercepting a pass and returning it 26 yards for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead with 6:01 to go. The “pick six” was Gurgone’s third of the season, tying an NCAA Division III season record.
Trine then turned the ball over on its third consecutive offensive play, with Olijnyk forcing a fumble and Gurgone scooping it up for a 35-yard touchdown return to end the scoring.
St. Norbert held a 304-173 edge in total offense, including 278 rushing yards. Rhodes rushed 23 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns and completed 3 of 5 passes for 26 yards. Green Bay Notre Dame graduate Nate Ihlenfeldt rushed 15 times for 82 yards.
Olijnyk and Matt Barrett had 11 tackles apiece, with Olijnyk finishing with three tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Gurgone, who has now scored five defensive touchdowns this season, had 10 stops with 2½ tackles for loss.
Ben Kornowski had six tackles in addition to his two interceptions.
The Green Knights totaled 12 tackles-for-loss.
St. Norbert: 0, 14, 17, 0 – 31
Trine: 0, 7, 0, 0 – 7