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ISSUE 120 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/27/2006

Royals dash playoff hopes: Loss against Bethel makes postseason berth unlikely

By Matthew Stortz
Staff Writer

Friday, October 27, 2006

The St. Olaf football team lost a seesaw battle Saturday afternoon to Bethel by a score of 35-29. The road loss drops the Oles to 4-2 against MIAC opponents and 6-2 overall.

With three games remaining, the Oles find themselves in fourth place, two games behind conference-leading St. John’s. With the MIAC champion automatically earning an NCAA playoff berth and the conference runner-up (with one loss) a likely pick for an at-large bid, the Oles chances for the postseason are essentially nil.

Saturday, St. Olaf drew first blood when Bobby Andrade 07 pounded in a touchdown run from the two-yard line. A failed point-after-try gave the Oles a 6-0 lead. Bethel wasted no time responding, however, scoring two consecutive touchdowns to make the score 14-6. St. Olaf scored a second touchdown on an Evan Endsley 09 run in the waning minutes of the first quarter and, after a failed two-point conversion attempt, moved within two points of the Royals.

Bethel scored again early in the second quarter, but St. Olaf quarterback Matt Penz 08 connected with Endsley for a six-yard touchdown pass, keeping the Oles within two at the half.

The Oles came out strong in the second half, holding the Royals scoreless in the third quarter. Penz connected with receiver Andrew Schmiesing 08 in the third quarter to give the Oles a 26-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Royals regained the lead with a touchdown and two-point conversion early in the fourth, but kicker Paul Fortman 08 added a field goal to the Ole total, tying the score at 29. Bethel added one more touchdown, but missed the extra point attempt, giving the Oles two minutes to drive for the win.

Unfortunately, the Oles were unable to move the ball, and Bethel ran out the clock to end the game.

This seasons hard-fought contest reinforces the St. Olaf-Bethel rivalry that has been brewing over the past few seasons. Last fall the Oles defeated Bethel in the closing seconds of the game, essentially knocking the Royals out of playoff contention in the second week of the season. Bethel returned the favor to St. Olaf this season, handing the Oles their second loss and dashing their playoff hopes.

Despite being out of playoff contention, the Oles have much to play for in their final two games, a home game against cross-river rival Carleton, and a road game against St. Thomas. If the Oles win out, they will be the first St. Olaf squad since 1971 to win eight games or more in consecutive seasons. Additionally, the Oles and Knights will play for local bragging rights; though the Oles are heavy favorites, the upstart Knights have been the surprise of the MIAC with a 4-3 record this fall.

Additionally, Penz, who is on track to throw for over 2,700 yards this season, is just 411 yards shy of former Ole great Jason Wilsey 06 2006 single season passing record.

I would be lying if I said I never thought about it, Penz said of the record. But statistics dont influence how we play. We just go out there and do what were supposed to do, and let the records take care of themselves.

The Oles kick off against Carleton this Saturday at 1 p.m. on Manitou Field.

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