RIPON, Wis. - If it were a crime to steal a football game, St. Norbert College coach Jim Purtill, his coaching staff and his team would probably be spending some hard time in the Fond du Lac County Jail.
But it isn't, and the Green Knights won't be giving back their 35-31 win over archrival Ripon College any time soon. St. Norbert has now won 13 of the last 14 meetings in the series, and the Red Hawks dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 1987.
St. Norbert (2-1, 2-0 MWC) found itself trailing the Red Hawks (0-3, 0-2) in the game's final moments. Ripon's Connor Greenwald scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1 minute 28 seconds left to play to give the host a 31-28 lead and send the partisan Ingalls Field crowd into a frenzy.
The ensuing kickoff was returned by Brian Fliess 50 yards to the Ripon 46-yard line, and a major facemask penalty moved the ball to the 31 with 1:19 to go. James Tringali then found Joe Green on a 30-yard pass to the Ripon 1. A Tringali sneak on first-and-goal netted little gain, but Austin Williams plunged in with 12 seconds remaining for a 35-31 lead.
Ripon had enough time to run just one play from scrimmage, and a lateral was recovered by St. Norbert at midfield as time expired.
The final flurry of action capped off a wild game that saw St. Norbert gain a 21-0 lead but give it all back thanks to a Ripon offense that held the ball a staggering 41:45, and ran 85 plays from scrimmage to the Green Knights' 40.
St. Norbert built its early lead by scoring on its first possession when Tringali hit Austin Williams for a 43-yard touchdown pass. The Green Knights' Max Pirman then intercepted a Ripon pass and cashed in on a short 25-yard drive, needing only two plays to score - runs of 15 and 10 yards by Williams.
The Green Knights went ahead 21-0 on another two-play drive, with Tringali connecting with Green on a 43-yard touchdown pass with 13:13 left in the second quarter.
Ripon's offense then took over the game, mounting several time consuming drives. The Red Hawks melted 8:01 off the clock on a 17-play, 75-yard drive to score on a 10-yard touchdown from Tom Sawyer to Kyle Hafemeister with 5:12 left before halftime. Ripon then cut it to 21-14 at halftime when Sawyer's 1-yard sneak with 29 seconds remaining finished a 9-play, 64-yard drive.
Ripon tied the game 21-21 on the first series of the second half, with Sawyer setting up his 1-yard touchdown run with a 63-yard scamper. The Red Hawks forced a St. Norbert three-and-out, and pulled ahead 24-21 on a 27-yard field goal by Jacob Gahart.
The Red Hawks had a chance to go ahead by two scores early in the fourth quarter, but a drive that used up 8:48 bogged down in the St. Norbert end and Gahart missed a 38-yard field goal wide left. St. Norbert took advantage, with Brad Boockmeier scoring on a 5-yard touchdown with 6:55 left for a 28-24 edge that set up the game's final moments.
Green caught four passes for 114 yards, becoming the fifth player in St. Norbert history to amass 2,000 career receiving yards. Williams rushed 14 times for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Tringali completed 10 of 16 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The Green Knights averaged 8.6 yards per play, getting 343 yards on 40 plays.
Sawyer rushed 21 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and also completed 10 of 13 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Greenwald added 93 yards on 26 carries and one score. Ripon rushed 72 times for 293 yards and finished with 398 yards of total offense on 85 plays.
Petr Bohacek led the St. Norbert defense with 15 tackles, and also had 2.5 tackles-for-loss and two quarterback sacks. Nick Keller added 10 stops.