I’ll be honest. I’m as happy as anyone to see St. Norbert’s football team choose to go beat up teams in some other league.
Lord knows they’ve done plenty of damage in the Midwest Conference, winning at least six games in 21 straight seasons and 17 titles in all. They’ll play one more fall in the league before joining the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference in 2021.
Beloit College certainly has had its hands full with the Green Knights, winning just 10 times in 36 meetings dating back to 1984 when they joined the MWC.
During Ed DeGeorge’s tenure from 1977-2005 the Beloit-SNC series was a much more even proposition, however, and he isn’t sure exactly what side of the fence he’s on concerning their leaving.
“St. Norbert has had really good teams for a couple of reasons,” he said. “They’re very committed to bringing in quality athletes and they’ve had real good coaching, by and large. Don LaViolette was head coach there for much of my tenure and he was a first-class individual and outstanding coach. There was a period of time when the winner of our game was going to win the North. I loved playing St. Norbert because if we beat them we came home and said we really accomplished something today.
“I guess in that respect I’m sad they’re leaving, but I’m an assistant baseball coach now and I’m not going to miss those 3 1-2 hour bus rides up there only to get rained or snowed out.”
In football, DeGeorge beat SNC nine times and all of them were pretty sweet. I believe I was lucky to experience nearly every one, with one of my all-time favorites on the Green Knights’ home turf at Minahan Stadium on Nov. 7, 1998. They’ve been practically invincible there, losing to Beloit just five times in 18 games.
On this occasion, though, they even squandered a 21-7 lead. The Bucs simply destroyed the Green Knights in the final quarter, scoring 17 unanswered points for a dramatic 24-21 victory decided on a 23-yard field goal by James Collins with four seconds remaining.
For the record, it was Beloit’s fifth straight victory and left them 6-3. They beat Ripon in their finale.
I think that victory typified Bucs teams under DeGeorge. His credo never really changed: play smart, play hard, win the turnover battle, win the kicking game, stay close ino the fourth quarter and outperform your opponent when it counts. His teams had a knack for winning the close ones.
They also had tremendous guts and stamina.
“I remember heading into the fourth quarter and (all-conference defensive tackle) Matt Krill comes off and says, ‘Coach, we’ve got them right where we want them. They’re tired.’”
Beloit had scored first on a 3-yard TD dive by bruising fullback Brian Balick, who had 110 yards in the game and still ranks fourth all-time in school history with 3,261.
The 7-0 lead didn’t last long. St. Norbert roared to a 21-7 lead by halftime.
The second half, however, amounted to seven empty possessions for the home team. They punted on five, turned the ball over on downs once and fumbled it away on another.
The comeback started when SNC quick-kicked from its own 9 and Chris Molnar raced back to fair-catch the ball at the Green Knights’ 40.
“That was just an amazing play by Molnar,” DeGeorge said. “Somehow he got back and caught it over his shoulder.”
The Bucs scored in nine plays as Balick blasted over the goal line from the 1. Collins’ PAT made it 21-14 with 5:58 left.
A three-and-out by the Beloit defense gave the offense the ball at the SNC 49 with 3:55 remaining. Again it took nine plays for the Bucs to find the end zone, with Balick again doing the honors from the 1 for the 30th score of his career. Collins’ PAT knotted it at 21-21.
Beloit’s Andy Brown sacked QB Tim Pierret, prompting another three-and-out and the Bucs took over at the SNC 40 with :35 left.
Quarterback Joe Herfel slipped a 27-yard pass into the waiting arms of fellow freshman Nate Edwards at the 13-yard line. Two runs by Balick set up a point-blank kick by Collins.
“Collins was a kid who hadn’t played high school football,” DeGeorge said. “He’d fooled around with kicking a ball in the park and got good enough to try out for us. We didn’t have a kicker so I said sure. The first extra point he tried in practice had this weird spin and revolutions on hit and went under the bar. I thought if this kid ever kicks for us we’re going to be the worst team in America.
“(Assistant Coach) Bob Nicholls worked with him, he improved and by the time he was a junior he made that winning kick and got some all-conference recognition.”
After that 1998 win, Beloit held a 9-6 edge in the series. The Green Knights won the next seven matchups against DeGeorge and 11 in all before BC won 34-31 in 2010.
That’s the Bucs’ last win in the series. SNC blanked them 66-0 last fall. The Bucs are scheduled to host SNC next Oct. 17.