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Green Knights Cash In Scoring Chances to Claim 16th MWC Championship

From Sports Information Director, November 14, 2015 | Football
by Dan Lukes, dan.lukes@snc.edu, (920) 403-4077

DE PERE - St. Norbert College cashed in on its scoring chances while Monmouth College did not, and that was the simple difference in the Green Knights' 16-7 win over the Fighting Scots in the Midwest Conference championship game at Schneider Stadium.

The Green Knights (10-0) won their 16th MWC title since joining the league for football in 1984, and their 12th since 1999. St. Norbert also earned a berth into the 32-team NCAA Division III Playoffs, its 12th overall. The Green Knights will learn their NCAA foe when the field is announced at 5 p.m. Sunday.

St. Norbert had five possessions reach the red zone and scored on four of them, producing a touchdown and three field goals. Monmouth (8-2) had three trips into the red zone and scored only once on a touchdown and missed two field-goal attempts. Monmouth was averaging 37.1 points per game entering the contest.

Both teams felt each other out in the first quarter, with Monmouth getting the only scoring chance. Danny Muzzalupo's 29-yard field-goal attempt with 4:43 left in the period hit the crossbar and kept the game scoreless after 15 minutes.

St. Norbert used its ensuing possession to reach the Monmouth 14-yard line early in the second quarter before stalling. Spenser Thompson-Meyers' 39-yard field goal with 13:07 left in the quarter put St. Norbert ahead 3-0.

Monmouth marched to the St. Norbert 26-yard line after a 12-play drive, but Scots' quarterback Tanner Matlick was strip-sacked by Hunter Prokash on fourth-and-4 to end the drive. Just before halftime, the Scots reached the St. Norbert 25 but Matlick was intercepted on the last play of the half to keep the score 3-0.

Monmouth opened the second half with another long drive, covering 13 plays for 65 yards, before getting stopped at the St. Norbert 10. Muzzalupo's 27-yard field-goal attempt was wide left.

After a trade of possessions, St. Norbert got the ball at its own 10. In what turned out to be the key play of the game, the Green Knights faced a third-and-9 at their own 11 when Jack Becker completed a pass to Zach Reeves. Reeves pulled away from the Monmouth secondary but was wrestled down just short of the goal line after an 88-yard reception. Two plays later, Becker hit Grant Murray on a 2-yard touchdown pass for a 10-0 lead with 2:16 left on the quarter.

Monmouth answered on its next possession, converting a third-and-16 on a 17-yard pass from Matlick to Easton Schaber on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Scots scored with 12:53 remaining on a two-yard run by Trent Rains and pull themselves to within 10-7.

St. Norbert went three-and-out on its next series, but two plays into Monmouth's ensuing possession Matlick was intercepted by Tyler Jensen at the St. Norbert 39. Becker found Elijah Fort for a 36-yard game three plays later, leading to a Thompson-Meyers 24-yard field goal and a 13-7 lead with 6:18 left.

Monmouth started at its own 35 on the next series but after a 12-yard run Matlick was stripped of the ball again. Following a return to the Monmouth 35 and a major penalty on the Scots, St. Norbert started at the Monmouth 20. Thompson-Meyers' 34-yard field-goal try with 4:12 left was missed, giving Monmouth one last chance.

Monmouth couldn't get a first down on its next series, and with St. Norbert taking over at the Monmouth 27 with 2:44 to go, Thompson-Meyers eventual kicked a 38-yard field goal with 1:49 left for a 16-7 lead to seal the win.

The Scots led St. Norbert in total offense 368-302 and held a commanding edge in first downs at 23-9, but the Green Knights were plus-five in turnovers leading to the advantage at the pay window. St. Norbert, which ran 55 plays to Monmouth's 72, had a scant time of possession edge at 30:06-29:54, and penalties were even at eight apiece.

Becker completed 7 of 14 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown. Reeves caught two passes for 116 yards. Elijah Fort led St. Norbert on the ground with 83 yards on 18 carries.

Matlick completed 18 of 32 passes for 194 yards with three interceptions. DeAndre Wright led Monmouth on the ground with 59 yards on 13 carries, while Trent Rains added 57 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown. Schaber led Monmouth's receivers with five catches for 67 yards.

R.J. Callow led St. Norbert's defense with 11 tackles, while Ryan Grandlic added nine stops. Matt Barnes, who was named the MWC's Elite 20 award-winner for football prior to the game, led the Scots with 15 tackles.