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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

One for the Ages: Oles stage largest comeback in team history, upend Luther

By Ryan Maus
Sports Editor

Friday, September 17, 2004

Do you believe in miracles!?

That was the question posed by broadcaster Al Michaels after Team USAs improbable victory over the Soviet hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics.

But the sentiment could have just as been expressed following the St. Olaf football teams amazing 32-31 come-from-behind victory over the Luther Norse last Saturday.

Junior quarterback Jason Wilseys 76-yard touchdown pass to Horace Gant 08 with 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter completely erased what had been a 31-0 Norse lead and allowed the Oles to escape with a season-opening victory.

After Luther missed a 41-yard field goal that would have put the game out of reach with 1:31 to play, St. Olaf found themselves at their own 24-yard line with no time outs and trailing 31-25.

But on the next play, Gant turned a mid-range completion into the go-ahead touchdown and sent the stunned Ole faithful home ecstatic.

Not only was Saturdays comeback victory the largest in the teams 84-year history, it also tied for the fourth largest come-from-behind victory in NCAA football history (at any level).

During the games first quarter and a half, nearly every thing that could go wrong for the Oles did. They gained only seven total yards first two possessions of the game, ending each with a punt.

Luther, however, scored two quick touchdowns and lead 14-0 before the first quarter was even half over.

Things quickly progressed from bad to worse. The Oles turned the ball over on their next four possessions, including two fumbles and two interceptions, which led directly to 17 Luther points.

Wilseys second interception came with 8:30 remaining in the second quarter and was returned 45 yards by Luthers Judson Taylor to make the score 31-0.

The monumental comeback started small. St. Olaf, which had only one first down in the entire first quarter, drove 69 yards in just over two minutes on their next possession, culminated by a Marc Olson 07 touchdown run (the two-point conversion failed). Former All-State kicker Paul Fortman 08 also kicked a 44-yard field goal just before the half, but the Oles still trailed 31-9 heading into the locker room.

When you get down by so many points, you have to keep your perspective, head coach Chris Meidt said. You cant change [your attitude]. Even though you might be feeling down as an individual, you still have to think of your teammates and concentrate on playing together.

Despite the large deficit, the Oles did just that in the second half. St. Olaf scored 22 points following halftime, including 19 in the fourth quarter alone. Wilsey, who completed 25 of 47 passes for 353 yards on the day, tossed all three of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

But it was Gant, playing in his first collegiate game, who really stole the show.

He scored two touchdowns and caught nine passes for a whopping 222 yards, nearly breaking the school record for most receiving yards in a game. Gant dominated the Norse secondary all day, as they had no match for his combination of speed, size and athleticism.

For his efforts, the Ole receiver earned MIAC Offensive Player of the Week honor. He was also named to D3football.coms team of the week.

Horace is simply a great kid, Meidt said. Hes a great athlete, a great player and is very coachable. You wont find a better kid out there.

The Ole defense deserves mention as well.

Despite spending most of the first half on the field due to myriad turnovers, the unit responded well in the second half. They held Luther scoreless and allowed just 89 yards of total offense during the games final 30 minutes.

Matt Dean 06 had three interceptions, including one in the games final minute which sealed St. Olafs victory. James Bechdol 08 led the team with eight tackles.

Fortman, who also kicked a 34-yard field goal and converted both of his extra points, received the MIAC Special Teams Player of the Week award.

The Oles look to carry some momentum from their record-setting victory into this Saturdays game with perennial MIAC powerhouse Bethel in St. Paul. The Royals are 1-1 this season, but they will pose a difficult challenge for the Oles in their MIAC opener.

You only get one of these in a lifetime, Meidt said about Saturdays win. We have a chance to be an excellent football team this year, so theres always room for improvement.

The Oles will have to play a more consistent game they hope to beat Bethel on Saturday. Miracles, after all, dont happen every week.

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