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Defense Paces St. Norbert to 17th Midwest Conference Championship

From Asst. AD/Athletics Communications, November 10, 2018 | Football
by Dan Lukes, dan.lukes@snc.edu, (920) 403-4077

DE PERE - St. Norbert College rode a rock-ribbed defense to its 17th Midwest Conference football championship, forcing six takeaways in a 10-7 win over Monmouth College in the Midwest Conference Championship Game at Schneider Stadium.

The Green Knights (9-1) avenged a heartbreaking 9-6 overtime loss to the Fighting Scots (8-2) in the 2017 MWC title game, and clinched a berth into the NCAA Division III Playoffs with the win. The NCAA will announce the 32-team bracket at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

St. Norbert scored on the fourth play from scrimmage as Ben Kornowski intercepted a Hayden Nelson pass and weaved his way 43 yards for a touchdown, the Green Knights' sixth defense touchdown of the season, for a 7-0 lead just 1:40 into the game.

The Green Knights held Monmouth to a three-and-out on the next series, setting up a solid 12-play, 72-yard that eventually stalled at the Monmouth 7-yard line. Spenser Thompson-Meyers' 24-yard field goal was true for a 10-0 edge with 5:25 left in the first quarter.

Both teams struggled to move the ball the rest of the first half, with each team throwing two interceptions. Monmouth had just one first down at halftime as the Green Knights held a 175-60 edge in total offense at intermission.

Field position was jockeyed for to start the third quarter until St. Norbert got to the Monmouth 29. Thompson-Meyers' 49-yard field goal try with 6:18 left in the quarter was wide left, but Joe Peterson collected his second interception of the period when he picked Nelson at the Monmouth 44. The Green Knights didn't get a first down and punted to the Monmouth 3.

The Scots would get out of their own end in two plays to their own 18 and then connected on a big 82-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Yansay Williams with 3:28 left in the third quarter.

St. Norbert opened the fourth quarter with a fourth-and-1 from near midfield and punted to the Monmouth 9. The Scots advanced to their 43 before Peterson intercepted Nelson for the third time in the game, this time winning a battle with a receiver at the St. Norbert 15. The Green Knights advanced to near midfield before punting to the Monmouth 22.

The Scots again got to midfield before Hunter Prokash came up with a key interception, St. Norbert's sixth of the game, giving the ball to the Green Knights at their own 49 with 4:21 to go. St. Norbert impressively ran out the clock, rushing eight consecutive plays on the nation's sixth-ranked run defense to get three first downs and run out the clock.

St. Norbert held a 343-246 edge in total offense, and rushed for 224 yards against a unit allowing just 50.7 yards per game on the ground coming into the contest. The Green Knights had possession for a whopping 37:22.

Drew Rhodes had 81 rushing yards on 26 carries, while David Lox had 50 yards on four carries. Matt Galanopoulos finished with 47 yards on four carries, while Nate Ihlenfeldt had 47 yards on 12 carries. Rhodes completed 12 of 23 passes for 119 yards. Galanopoulos had five catches for 44 yards, while Drew Chevarria had three catches for 50 yards.

St. Norbert's six interceptions were the most since pilfering six aerials against Ripon College on Oct. 19, 1985. Peterson is the first Green Knights in 31 years to record at least three interceptions in a game, and it is just the fifth occurrence in school history. It also marked the second time this season St. Norbert won a game without scoring an offensive touchdown. Prior to Week 1's 16-7 win over Aurora University, the Green Knights had not won a game without scoring an offensive touchdown since a 9-0 win over South Dakota State University on Oct. 7, 1938.

Matt Barrett led St. Norbert with seven tackles, while Matt Gurgone added six.

Nelson completed 12 of 27 passes for 156 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions for the Scots. DeAndre Wright had just 82 yards rushing on 22 carries. Jacolby Maxwell had a team-high four receptions for 39 yards.

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