Eagles win mid-game battle, top Knights in MLC Homecoming
NEW ULM — Martin Luther College had momentum on its side early on during its Homecoming Saturday until it hit a mid-game wall put up by the University of Northwestern, St. Paul.
The Eagles put up 21 consecutive points between the second and third quarters and tacked on another touchdown late in the third to come back and defeat Knights 42-38 in an Upper Midwest Athletic Conference college football game at the MLC Bowl.
Caden Cantrell completed 24 of 38 passes for 459 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for UNW, while Jeremiah Staten rushed for 45 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and Ashton Lofton rushed for 18 yards and a score on three carries. Beau Burk caught all three TD passes for the Eagles and finished with 14 catches for 289 yards.
Max Nordlie completed 14 of 27 passes for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Knights and also ran for 19 yards and a score on 12 carries. Carson Oestreich rushed for 55 yards on 14 carries for MLC, while Rees Roecker had eight carries for 33 yards and Mason Cox had a 7-yard TD run and five catches for 28 yards.
Jude Pederson had three catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns for MLC, while Andrew Raasch had two catches for 48 yards.
With the Knights leading 31-14 with 48 seconds left in the first half after a 5-yard TD run by Nordlie, the Eagles staged their comeback. That comeback began with one play, a 75-yard TD pass to Burk to have the Eagles down by 10 at the half.
UNW then scored on back-to-back drives in the second half to go up 35-31.
Pederson gave the Knights some energy and the lead back after hanging on to deep pass down the sideline for a 49-yard TD with 3:34 left in the third, but the Eagles were again quick to answer as Burk took a 59-yard catch and run to the MLC 1-yard line. The Eagles then took a permanent lead after a Staten 1-yard TD run.
After a scoreless fourth, the Knights got one last drive and saw Nordlie convert on fourth down once during that drive on a 24-yard pass to Thomas Koelpin, but the Eagles shut the door on the Knights moments later after forcing a turnover on downs.
While the Knights had their moments, most of them came in the first quarter and early in the second quarter.
“[UNW is a] a good football team and they weren’t executing as well as they maybe could have early and again, made some mistakes that we took advantage of, which was good,” Knights head coach Paul Huebner said. “I think they turned it up notch and we got a little bit stagnant, and we talked to the guys, it’s the middle eight [minutes], we’ve got be better in that middle eight. That last four in the first half, first four in the second. The middle eight is really where this game changed. We had the lead and it got close and they took it away from us in that second half early.
“Guys battled. Hot, nasty game out here, but I’m really proud of the way the guys battled through it. Only 43 guys and even then, it’s only maybe 40 in uniform today, but just guys working their tail off and we’re really proud of the effort that they give.”
After the Eagles scored on their opening drive, the Knights fumbled on their first drive. But MLC special teams was quick to get back at UNW after Andrew Esmay blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt and Jeremiah Stanton recovered it for a TD return to tie the game.
MLC’s Joshua Bannick then recovered a fumble at the UNW 24 on the next Eagles drive before MLC saw a three-play drive finish in points as Cox took a sweep play right into the end zone for a 14-7 Knights lead.
Still in the first quarter, Pederson caught a short pass in the middle of the field and took it 64 yards to the end zone for a 21-7 Knights lead. The Knights then grabbed a 24-7 lead after a 25-yard field from Micah Koschnitzke, who also finished the game 5 for 5 on his PATs.
Both teams traded a touchdown before the Eagles locked in for the comeback.
The Eagles improved to 2-3 overall on the year and 1-0 in UMAC play, while the Knights came off a bye week and dropped to 0-4 on the year overall and 0-1 in the conference.
While starting the season 0-4 isn’t the situation the Knights want to be in, Huebner said the early schedule hasn’t been easy and his players believe they can turn things around.
“Before the game, we talked about winning the moment, not worrying about the game, but win the moment,” Huebner said. “And if you win enough moments, you win the game. We won a lot of moments, we had a lot of good plays, they won a few of those moments and ended up winning a couple more and we come up just short.
“Guys still believe, this is our first conference game, so it’s good to see a conference opponent, our nonconference schedule’s very challenging, our guys know that, we all know that. So it was good to see where we stack up with the team that won the conference last year and is the conference co-favorite with Greenville.”
Thomas Balge was in on 12 total tackles to lead the Knights on defense, while Trevor Hueske had a late interception in the end zone to keep the Eagles off the board in the fourth quarter. Lucas Rathje had two tackles for a loss and a sack also for the Knights, while Christian Koelpin added a sack.
MLC can bounce back from the loss on Saturday when it travels to Fulton, Missouri, to take on Westminster (0-4, 0-1) in UMAC play.