MINNEAPOLIS – With the injury bug taking numerous bites out of the roster, the Carleton College football team gutted out a 36-34 road win over Augsburg University.
"Great team win," said Carleton head coach Tom Journell. "Guys continue to buy in and continue to work hard and get better. We fought through some adversity today with a lot of different injuries. So many people stepped up and made huge plays for us. To go on the road in this conference and come away with a victory, I'm really proud of the guys.
"Defensively, we hung in there against a really good offense, and a really good receiver, one of the best receivers in Division III."
For portions of the day, it appeared that Augsburg's Nick Heenie would single-handily lead his team to victory. He tied team records with 20 receptions and four touchdowns, while his 275 receiving yards rank second in program history. However, the Carleton defense forced Heenie to fumble twice, with both turnovers leading to Carleton touchdowns.
Less than 30 seconds into the game, Augsburg (0-7, 0-5 MIAC) grabbed the lead when Heenie caught a pass and raced 75 yards to the end zone. Carleton (3-4, 2-3 MIAC) was forced to punt on its first possession, but the first of six Auggie turnovers gave the Knights back the ball on the eight-yard line. Moments later, Christian Zaytoun connected with Fletcher Metz on an eight-yard scoring strike, tying the game at 7-7 less than two minutes into the contest.
Augsburg's next drive marched down the field, but Travis Brown intercepted a pass intended for Heenie in the end zone. Carleton took advantage and capped a 10-play drive with a 14-yard aerial connection between Zaytoun and Emanual Williams.
After an empty possession for each side, Carlos Lua Pineda forced Heenie to put the ball on the turf, with Ryan McGregor recovering the fumble. Another Zaytoun-to-Metz touchdown connection put the visitors in front 20-14.
Later in the second quarter, yet another Augsburg turnover led immediately to points as Brown picked off a pass intended for Heenie and raced 39 yards for the pick-six. This was Carleton's second interception return for a touchdown this season after not registering one in any of the four previous campaigns.
Augsburg quarterback Quentin Lake hooked up with Heenie for a 21-yard touchdown shortly before halftime, so Carleton led 26-21 at intermission.
Carleton took the second-half kickoff and concluded a 12-play drive with a 31-yard field goal by Alex Chertoff. After a high-scoring first half, that proved to be the only points scored in the third quarter, and the Knights carried a 29-21 lead into the final 15 minutes.
The Auggies reached the end zone again with 9:10 remaining, but the Carleton defense came up with another crucial play by intercepting the two-point conversion attempt. That play loomed large over the final minutes of the contest.
Three possession and three punts gave Augsburg the ball back with 5:30 remaining in the contest. After Heenie caught a ball over the middle, McGregor stripped the ball and recovered the fumble.
On the first play after the turnover, Carleton went into its bag of tricks for a big play. Tom Journell called for a double pass, and Beau Nelson connected with Bert Bean for a play that brought the ball down to the Augsburg four-yard line. Two plays later, Zaytoun found Dylan Rye for a critical touchdown, with the extra point giving Carleton a 36-27 lead.
Augsburg burned its timeouts on defense but got the ball back in time for another scoring drive as Heenie hauled in a nine-yard toss with 1:10 remaining. The Auggies kicked the extra point to pull within 36-34, but the hosts were twice unable to secure the onside kick. Carleton utilized victory formation and ran out the clock.
The Carleton defense came up with six turnovers in addition to a stop on the two-point conversion. The Knights scored 33 points off those extra possessions.
Despite playing nearly the entire second half without Metz and Mack Journell—the Knights' top two targets in the passing game—Zaytoun still finished 26-for-47 for 214 yards and four more touchdowns.
The Carleton quarterback continues to climb up the Knights' all-time leaderboard. He is now seventh on the single-season list with 1,943 passing yards this year and ninth on the career passing chart with 3,959 yards. Zaytoun now has 23 passing touchdowns this year—the third-highest single-season figure in team history—and 36 career touchdown tosses, fifth in program annals.
Williams had nine catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Nelson had five grabs for 54 yards and added another 36 yards through the air.
In addition to forcing a fumble, Lua Pineda led the Knights with a game-high 14 tackles.
Carleton stays on the road and visits No. 3-ranked University of St. Thomas at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.