NEW ULM — Despite Autumn’s cool temperatures firmly here, the Greenville University Panthers made the Martin Luther College Knights sweat late in Saturday afternoon’s Upper Midwest Athletic Conference football game at MLC.
After the Knights allowed 16 unanswered points, senior quarterback Max Nordlie found freshman Jude Pederson for a first-down completion, foiling Greenville’s comeback hopes as the Knights hung on for a 31-29 win.
Nordlie completed 16 of 26 passes for 226 yards, two TDs and an interception. Mason Cox led all MLC receivers with eight catches for 107 yards, while Pederson had four catches for 47 yards and a TD and Thomas Koelpin had two catches for 40 yards.
Caron Oestreich had 13 carries for 72 yards and two scores also to lead MLC on the ground.
After an 0-5 start to the year, MLC earned its first win of the season on Saturday to move to 1-5 overall and 1-2 in the UMAC.
The Panthers dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the UMAC.
“[The win] is massive, it really is massive, for our young guys especially who haven’t experienced winning,” MLC head coach Paul Huebner said. “You get to the point, you start to question yourselves, like, ‘Am I doing the right thing? How come it’s not going my way on the field?’ So for them, to see some success on the football field is really, really important today.
“Really proud of all of them but proud of the way the seniors stepped up and kept them together. Again, 0-5, tough start to the season, we’re at a point, too, where all of us start to question if we’re doing things the right way, if we’re doing things the way we should. So to finally get results feels really, really good.”
Paul Garrett carried the bulk of the offense for the Panthers as he rushed 23 times for 210 yards and three TDs.
Greenville outrushed MLC 246-103, but the Knights won the battle through the air and held Panthers quarterback Peyton Bates to 112 yards passing.
MLC held a modest 17-6 lead at halftime, getting a 23-yard field goal by Micah Koschnitzke, a 1-yard TD run by Oestreich and an 18-yard TD reception by Andrew Raasch in that first half.
After a 58-yard TD run by Oestreich had the Knights up 24-6 on the third play of the second half, Greenville took nine plays to answer as Paul finished the next Panthers drive on a 13-yard TD run. Pederson pulled in a 10-yard TD reception to put the Knights up 31-13 with minutes to play in the third quarter, but Paul again found the end zone early in the fourth to have his team down 31-20.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cory Tipton called for a fair catch deep in MLC territory but let the ball slip through his hands before recovering it at the MLC 4. Greenville then pounced on the Knights right away for a safety to trail 31-22.
After kicking the ball back to Greenville, Silas Steinbrenner made a big play for the MLC defense with an interception at the MLC 6-yard line. The Knights moved the ball into Greenville territory after that but couldn’t capitalize, however, turning the ball over on downs after Thomas Linnear sacked Nordlie.
An 11-play drive saw Greenville back in the end zone after an 8-yard TD reception by Terrance Brown with 1:46 left to play.
After using their final two timeouts after a pair of MLC runs, Greenville was unable to stop a 9-yard Nordlie pass up the middle to Pederson on third down, giving the Knights the first down and the ability to kneel the clock out.
“We have a lot of playmakers on offense and today they just made plays,” Huebner said. “We talked, the same message the last three to four weeks is win the moment and win enough moments, win the game. And today we talked about — and all week, honestly — was win the moment, but make the moments matter.
“When it’s first and 10, it matters, when it’s third and 8, it matters, when it’s fourth down, it matters. And I think we did a really good job of it. I don’t know what we were in the second half, but we were 6 of 9 on third down in the first half, we were making the moments matter and winning those moments.”
MLC finished the game going 10 of 15 on third down and held the Panthers to 5 of 14 on third down.
MLC’s Jeremiah Stanton had an interception for 62 yards to go with eight tackles, while David Baumann had a team-best 10 tackles and an interception. Thomas Balge added nine tackles for MLC on defense, while Koelpin, Joseph Dahlberg and Ethan Melso each had a sack and a forced fumble. Melso also recovered a fumble.
MLC is at Crown for another UMAC game at 1 p.m. Saturday.