HELENA – Dylan Torgerson often jokes, “Punters are people too.”
Carroll College’s punter certainly made his name known on Saturday. The junior from Kalispell boomed eight punts, seven of them inside the 20-yard line and none more important than his second-to-last.
With Carroll leading 15-7 and less than 5:30 remaining in the football game, the Saints called on Torgerson on 4th-and-2 from their own 38-yard line. The kick sailed to Rocky’s 10-yard line where the Battlin’ Bears dangerous returner, Jayc Van Zee, bobbled the ball and could only watch as Isazah King pounced to return possession to the Saints.
“As I was running down there I was looking at my guy and then trying to sit right in front of (Van Zee) in case he drops it,” said King. “Usually when they drop it, it drops straight down. It happened before and I missed it and I was like, ‘Man if this happens again I have to be there,’ and I was right there and fell on it.”
Carroll took advantage of the turnover, going with a designed quarterback run on the following play. Tanner Gustavsen’s 10-yard scamper put the Fighting Saints up 22-7.
“That was awesome,” said Gustavsen, the backup for the majority of the season. “That was the offensive line giving me a good lane to run and they did a great job and made it easy for me to get in the end zone. Props to them.”
Gustavsen’s first collegiate start was a successful one. The junior completed only seven passes for 84 yards, but hit Connor Fohn on a 34-yard strike in the back of the end zone in the third quarter. Fohn finished with five receptions for 69 yards and the score.
Gustavsen, replacing the injured JT Linder, was smooth on his feet, rushing 11 times for 56 yards and the late touchdown. Dylan Green added 78 yards and a first quarter score as the Saints picked up 205 yards on the ground.
“I had a lot of confidence in the offensive line today,” said Gustavsen. “I felt really comfortable in the back of the pocket. I was taking my time with my reads and if it wasn’t there I was taking off, but I was really happy with the way they played today.”
“If you watch our team over the last four or five games we’ve had some great plays by certain individuals but not the entire team,” said head coach Mike Van Diest. “We had a couple breakdowns today. There were a couple third down runs, we didn’t get the first down in the fourth quarter and I called a not very good blitz and the quarterback ran for a first down. That kid is a good runner, Bakken took it and we missed some tackles.
“I thought overall, defensively our guys played their hearts out and competed, they played exactly what the game plan was and offensively, when we had to move the football we did. You have to play that way against good teams.”
Rocky certainly didn’t make things easy. Even after Gustavsen’s touchdown appeared to put the game away for good, Bakken, also filling in for an injured starter, led the Bears on a 75-yard drive that ended with a touchdown by Taylor Schwartz to bring the score to 22-14.
Bears’ coach Jason Petrino elected for a pooch onside kick, which was recovered by Carroll’s Troy Arntson, but Rocky’s defense held and forced a Torgerson punt with less than a minute to play.
On 4th-and-7 from his own 19, Bakken again looked Schwartz’s way but King made his second game-changing play by stepping in front and returning an interception for a touchdown to seal the win.
“I had just been thrown in there,” said King. “(Van Diest) said to pick up anything that comes across the middle. I saw that kid come across the middle and I broke on it. The ball was there right when I broke on it. It went right into my hands and at first I was like, ‘I have the ball in my hands, I have to run it.’ It was pretty exciting.”
The Saints improve to 3-4 overall and in Frontier Conference play. Rocky, which held hopes of a league title, falls to 4-4 overall and 4-3 in the conference.
Carroll hosts MSU-Northern next Saturday, Oct. 29. Rocky hosts league-leading Montana Tech.