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Sunday Press Recap
By Eric Peterson,The Forum
Published Sunday, October 17, 2004
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. -- Brian Halverson vaulted "Cobber Nation" into hysteria, left St. John's in disbelief and ended 14 years of Concordia football frustration against the Johnnies Saturday at Clemens Field.
All with one swing of his strong, accurate right leg.
Halverson booted a 30-yard field goal with 24 seconds to play, lifting Concordia to a dramatic 21-20 victory in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football.
"To me, it was just another kick," said Halverson, a 2002 Fargo North graduate.
"He's got ice in his veins," said Concordia head coach Terry Horan said of Halverson. "Nothing seems to affect this kid."
While Halverson downplayed the importance, it was more than just another kick.
A large contingent of Cobber fans -- including a handful of shirtless followers who were waving large maroon and gold Concordia flags -- stormed the field at the end of regulation.
"It was chaos there," Halverson said. "I was just excited for those last seconds to get off the clock."
The Cobbers (6-0 overall, 5-0 MIAC) beat St. John's (5-2, 4-1) in Collegeville for the first time since 1988, when Horan was a senior wide receiver at Concordia. The Cobbers last defeated the Johnnies in 1990.
"It's just a big win for coach Horan," said Concordia senior corner back Jordan Talge, who was six years old the last time the Cobbers won at Clemens Stadium. "No one deserved it more than him. I think you have to call it old school Concordia."
The defending NCAA Division III national champions, St. John's also had its 28-game MIAC winning streak snapped.
"It was just amazing," said Concordia senior fullback Ed Oehlers, who scored a key touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter. "I didn't have a thought right away. I could believe it because this is what we've been working for."
Concordia started the decisive drive with 6:43 remaining, moving the ball from its own 12-yard line to the Johnnies 14. The Cobbers converted on third down four times in the final march.
Oehlers bulled up the middle for one yard to center the ball at the St. John's 13. Concordia called a time out with 28 seconds to play and decided to kick the field goal on third-and-5.
With a skin-piercing stiff wind at his back, Halvorson drilled the 30-yard attempt.
"It felt good, but I knew the game wasn't over yet," Halvorson said.
St. John's returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 39-yard line. After two straight incomplete passes, Johnnies quarterback Alex Kofoed threw a shovel pass to running back Mike Lofboom. Lofboom carried the ball to the Concordia 40, where he was tackled as time expired.
"I'm just a little shocked," said St. John's wide receiver Kyle Gearman, who caught a 78-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. "I looked up at the scoreboard and we were up 20-11 and then they were driving for that last field goal."
Concordia trailed 20-11 entering the fourth quarter, but had the wind at its back for the final 15 minutes.
The wind played a factor throughout the afternoon. Neither offense scored moving into the strong breeze.
However, St. John's speedster Lee Clintsman had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter when the Johnnies were against the wind.
"The wind was a big factor," said St. John's coach John Gagliardi.
"When you had the wind, you had to score," Gearman added.
And Concordia did a slightly better job of that than St. John's did in the second half. The Johnnies scored seven points with the wind in the third quarter. Concordia scored 10 points with the wind in the fourth quarter.
In the third, St. John's started drives at its own 48 and the Concordia 46, 38 and 38.
But that prime field position translated into just one touchdown for the Johnnies.
"We scored one, but it should have been two more," Gagliardi said.
"Our defense wasn't going to break," Horan added.
However, the Concordia winless streak against St. John's did.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513
Drive triggers triumph
By Heath Hotzler, The Forum
Published Sunday, October 17, 2004
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COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. -- It lasted six minutes and 19 seconds and spanned 75 yards.
It wiped away 14 years of frustration.
It will be forever remembered by Concordia football fans as “The Drive.”
“When we got in that huddle, nobody wanted to leave here shorthanded,” Cobbers senior quarterback Brian Schumacher said. “We were going to do whatever it took to get down there and score.”
Trailing defending NCAA Division III national champion St. John’s 20-18 late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Concordia started its final offensive possession on the Johnnies’ 12-yard line.
It looked like a dire situation for the Cobbers.
The Johnnies defense already had six sacks and certainly would be bringing the heat on Schumacher.
However, Concordia coach Terry Horan wasn’t worried.
“We had the wind to our back,” Concordia coach Terry Horan said of the final drive. “We knew we had to get something done.”
Cobbers fullback Ed Oehlers broke up the middle for 5 yards on the first play. Schumacher ran for 4 more on second down to set up third-and-1.
Oehlers ran for 2 yards to get the first, then 2 yards on each of the next two plays.
It was third-and-6 on the St. John’s 27.
“We knew we could wear them down,” said Oehlers, who finished with 86 yards on 25 carries. “We just went with what worked and kept our sense of trust.”
Schumacher came up with the first big play of the drive when he ran the ball around the end for 17 yards on an option play.
Another Oehlers run for 3 yards set up a second-and-7.
“I thought our secondary played well,” St. John’s defensive coordinator Jerry Haugen said. “We just didn’t handle the option well.”
The Cobbers caught a game-changing break on the next play.
St. John’s linebacker Jamie Steffensmeier was flagged for hitting a Concordia player after the whistle as Concordia running back Travis Christensen raced to the sidelines on a sweep.
Steffensmeier, who transferred to the Johnnies from North Dakota State last year, was called for a 14-yard personal foul, and the ball was placed on the St. John’s 36-yard line.
“That changed everything,” Haugen said. “Now the Cobbers are thinking all they have to do is pick up 10 yards and they have a field goal. Now they just had to hammer the football in there. And that’s what they did.”
Two more runs up the middle brought up third-and-4 at the 30-yard line.
It was time for a surprise.
After nine-consecutive run plays, Schumacher dropped back and fired a 12-yard strike to receiver Andrew Passanante.
The completion, which was Schumacher’s seventh of the game, set up first-and-10 from the 18-yard line.
Passanante, who leads the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in receptions and yards, finished with two catches for 19 yards.
“They doubled up on him all day,” said Schumacher, who finished with 114 rushing yards.
“They did a tremendous job of shutting him down. But he came through when we needed him.”
Two more Concordia run plays made it third-and-5 at the 13-yard line.
Kicker Brian Halverson endured two timeouts before kicking a 30-yard field goal to put the Cobbers ahead 21-20.
The Concordia victory stopped the Johnnies’ 28-game winning streak conference games.
It also ended the Cobbers’ 16-year drought at Clemens Stadium and a 14-year winless streak against the Johnnies.
More important, it gave Concordia the inside track on the MIAC title and an automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs with four regular season game remaining.
“As of today, that was the biggest drive as I have been apart of,” Horan said. “But we don’t want to stop there. We’ve got to get back to work.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562
By Frank Rajkowski
COLLEGEVILLE -- Concordia junior Brian Halverson had a feeling he might
be called upon to determine the outcome of his team's big MIAC matchup
Saturday afternoon against St. John's.
Halverson's 30-yard field goal with 24 seconds left lifted the Cobbers to a 21-20 victory before a crowd of 5,643 on a cold and windy day at Clemens Stadium.
The loss snapped the Johnnies' MIAC record 28-game conference winning streak and gave Concordia sole possession of first place.
"I was kind of thinking all day that it might come down to me," said Halverson, who was 2-for-3 on field goal attempts, coming up short from 39 yards against the wind in the first quarter and hitting from 40 yards with it in the second. "I knew I had to be ready. I didn't think about the pressure that much. I just kicked the ball."
His aim was true, handing his team (5-0 MIAC, 6-0 overall) its first victory over St. John's since 1990 and its first win in Collegeville since 1988. The Cobbers, who play host to Bethel next week, can afford to drop one of their final three games and still claim the MIAC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Their victories over the Johnnies and St. Thomas give them the tiebreaking edge, who each have one conference loss.
St. John's, meanwhile, must win its final three games (at Augsburg next week, at St. Olaf Oct. 30 and at home against the Tommies Nov. 13) and hope other things break its way if it is to extend its six-season streak of postseason appearances -- either via an automatic bid or one of the three at-large bids available to the 28-team field.
"Our backs are against the wall now, but we have to play the cards we're dealt and do the best we can with them," said junior defensive tackle Jason Good, who finished with a team-best 19 tackles and had 1.5 of his team's six sacks. "You can only control the games you play and we have to win them."
Concordia held an edge in time of possession (40:58 to 19:02), but the Johnnies made stops when it had to until the Cobbers' final drive.
Trailing 20-18 with 6:43 lefty, Concordia got the ball at its own 12. Working with a stiff wind, junior quarterback Brian Schumacher led his team 75 yards in 14 plays -- running 4:19 off the clock -- to set up Halverson's field goal.
The Cobbers kept the drive alive three times on third down, including on a 17-yard run by Schumacher on 3rd-and-6 at his own 27. Concordia also picked up 15 yards when St. John's outside linebacker Jamie Steffensmeier was called for a personal foul that put the ball on the Johnnies' 36.
"Their blocker came out to get me and I tried to shed him by throwing him off," said Steffensmeier, who had 16 tackles, including two for a loss. "It wasn't anything that I hadn't done five times previous to that, but they called it. I didn't even know the flag was there until they started marking it off."
A 12-yard pass from Schumacher to senior Andrew Passanante, a 4-yard quarterback keeper and a 1-yard run by senior fullback Ed Oehlers put the ball in the middle of the field at the St. John's 13 -- well within Halverson's range.
"It's hard to explain, but when I looked at everyone's eyes in our huddle, I knew there was no way we weren't going to get this thing done," said Schumacher, who threw for just 74 yards (well shy of his 184.4 yards per game average), but did most of his damage on the ground, finishing with 28 carries for 114 yards. "We knew what was at stake."
Schumacher and company held the ball for 22:35 of the first half and ran 49 plays. The Johnnies had the ball 7:25 and ran 18.
Yet it was St. John's that led 13-11 at halftime thanks to a pair of big plays -- a 79-yard pass from freshman Alex Kofoed to sophomore Kyle Gearman in the first quarter and a 94-yard kickoff return by senior Lee Clintsman in the second that came 12 seconds after the Cobbers had gone on top 11-6 on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Schumacher to senior Shawn Reile.
"It was tough because they'd drive and drive and drive, then we'd score quickly and throw the defense right back on the field," Clintsman said. "We had some big plays, but we didn't put many long drives together and we spent a lot of the game watching from the sidelines."
Part of that was because Concordia limited the Johnnies to 60 yards rushing. It didn't help that St. John's junior Corey Weber, who rushed for more than 100 yards each of the past two weeks, broke his collarbone in the first half. He is likely lost for the season.
"That hurt a lot," Johnnies head coach John Gagliardi said. "He's been playing awfully well for us and he got knocked out pretty early."
Still, St. John's had its chances, starting three third-quarter drives in Cobbers' territory and another at its own 48. But Concordia held the Johnnies to one score, a 32-yard touchdown pass from Kofoed to Clintsman that gave St. John's 20-11 lead with 7:03 remaining in the third quarter.
"St. John's had great field position the whole third quarter, but our defense wasn't going to break," said Cobbers head coach Terry Horan, who was a senior wide receiver on the last Concordia team to win at St. John's. "They hung in there. I thought that was kind of the story of this game."
Horan's team cut the gap to 20-18 when Oehlers scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 10:38 left. The Johnnies moved the ball to the Cobbers' 44 on their next possession, but were forced to punt, setting the stage for the winning drive.
"Concordia was in a bit of a slump for a time, then Coach Horan came
in here four years ago and we started to climb the mountain," said Halverson,
whose team is trying to win the school's first MIAC title since it shared
the championship with the Johnnies in 1995. "Now we're on top again and
we want to stay there."
DeLand column: Tired SJU had its chances
By Dave DeLand
COLLEGEVILLE -- They walked slowly as they left the playing field at Clemens Stadium for the final time Saturday, all 11 of them oblivious to the wild celebration that had exploded on the opposite side of the field.
They were exhausted, and they deserved to be. It was a grueling afternoon for the St. John's football team's defense, and for the Johnnies in general.
They had lost the game, 21-20 to Concordia. They had lost their star running back, Corey Weber, who broke his clavicle and is out for the season. They also may have lost their chance to defend their NCAA Division III national championship.
"The defense is really tired," said St. John's linebacker Jamie Steffensmeier, whose defensive unit was on the field for nearly 41 of the game's 60 minutes. "You're definitely sore. You're going to be run down later tonight. You definitely feel it a lot more in a game like that."
"They kept pounding away at us," said Johnnies defensive tackle Jason Good, whose pads bore the evidence of his 19 tackles and countless collisions. "It can wear you down after awhile."
And when Concordia's Brian Halverson kicked a 30-yard field goal with 23.9 seconds remaining, the Johnnies may have lost more than just the game and their leading rusher. They also lost control of their playoff destiny.
"We've just got to hope that things happen for us," said wide receiver Lee Clintsman, whose 94-yard kickoff return touchdown and 32-yard scoring reception staked the Johnnies to a 20-11 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"It's like being a wild card in baseball. We've got to hope that (other) teams lose. You've just got to hope the cards go your way."
"We've lost two games by three points -- I don't know what that does (to the Johnnies' playoff hopes)," St. John's coach John Gagliardi said. "We should have won this one."
They didn't largely because Concordia -- now 6-0 and in the driver's seat for the MIAC's automatic playoff berth -- eventually wore down the St. John's defense with a ball-hogging, ground-hugging offense.
The Cobbers ran 71 times for 271 yards, mostly in short chunks, behind a big, physical offensive line. They limited St. John's offense to 19 minutes of possession, and scored on their last two possessions to end the Johnnies' 28-game MIAC winning streak.
So, the Johnnies' playoff situation is this: They need help. They must run the table in their final three games (at 2-4 Augsburg, at 4-2 St. Olaf and at home against 5-1 St. Thomas) and get some favorable results elsewhere in order to make the 28-team playoff field.
"We've got to win every game," Gans said. "That's all we can worry about, right?"
"We know that we're not sitting exactly where we want to be," added Steffensmeier, who said the 15-yard personal foul penalty he received on Concordia's final drive came on a play where he was merely tossing aside a blocker. "We've just got to take care of our job, focus on what we can do."
The Johnnies' four consecutive trips to the Division III national semifinals won't hurt. But they're still going to need a break.
"We're lucky that everything went right last year," Gagliardi said. "It's tough to go on all the time. These other teams are tough."
Then he shook his head. "But we should have put that one away."
This column is the opinion of Times sports editor Dave DeLand. Contact
him at 255-8771 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune
October 17, 2004 MIAC1017
CONCORDIA 21, ST. JOHN'S 20
COLLEGEVILLE, MINN. -- Their junior placekicker maintained, even in the euphoria after Concordia (Moorhead) completed a streak-busting 21-20 comeback victory over St. John's, that his winning moment was simply another kick.
But here's betting Cobber fans -- some bare-chested, others hoisting school banners that flapped in a cold, stiff wind -- don't routinely rush the field with such joyous abandon as they did Saturday at Clemens Stadium.
Brian Halverson's 30-yard field goal with 24 seconds left ended St. John's record MIAC winning streak at 28 games, gave Concordia its first victory over the Johnnies in 14 years and, most importantly, it thrust the unbeaten Cobbers (6-0, 5-0 MIAC) into conference control with three weeks left.
Bruce Bisping"To me, it was just another kick," Halverson said. "I'm a kicker."
His beaming smile belied his words. The Cobbers hadn't won in Collegeville since 1988, when their coach, Terry Horan, was the school's star receiver. They hadn't beaten St. John's since a 1990 game at the Metrodome, a winless stretch that included 11 losses and two ties. And the Johnnies hadn't lost a MIAC game since St. Olaf beat them with a late field goal at Clemens Stadium three years ago.
Everything changed Saturday when the Cobbers rallied from a fourth-quarter, 20-11 deficit on a day when they dominated ball possession all afternoon.
By halftime, Concordia held the football for more than 22 minutes, the Johnnies for fewer than eight -- "I can't remember running 10 plays in the first half," said St. John's senior receiver Lee Clintsman, whose team ran 18 plays -- and yet the Cobbers trailed 13-11 after giving up a 78-yard touchdown pass and Clintsman's 94-yard kickoff return.
The Johnnies lost a star player to a season-ending injury for the second week. Last week, safety/punter Mark Hawn broke his arm. On Saturday, running back Corey Weber broke his collarbone in the opening minutes.
And yet St. John's built that 11-point lead with a blitzing defense that stifled the Cobbers' potent passing game and with an adapted offense and special-teams unit that each demonstrated big-play capability. The Johnnies spent most of the third quarter in Cobber territory but managed only one score -- freshman quarterback Alex Kofoed's 32-yard TD pass to Clintsman midway through the quarter -- that was St. John's last.
"We got one," St. John's coach John Gagliardi said of his team's lone second-half touchdown, "but we should have had a couple more."
The Cobbers -- relying on the running of option quarterback Brian Schumacher and fullback Ed Oehlers -- swung the game with two long scoring drives. An 84-yard touchdown march opened the fourth quarter. A 75-yard drive consumed most of the final seven minutes and ended with Halverson's winning third-down kick.
"It's hard to explain," Schumacher said of the winning drive. "But you could look into everyone's eyes and tell there was no way we were not going to win this thing. It was time. After 14 years, it was time."
Jerry Zgoda is at
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