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Tom Mix, Published September 21 2013

Concordia tops St. Olaf in MIAC football opener, keeps Troll Trophy

MOORHEAD – The Troll is staying in Moorhead for another year.

Several hours after being featured on a Saturday morning broadcast of ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Fargo, the Troll Trophy – a traveling prize awarded to the winner of the annual football game between Concordia and St. Olaf – was put up for grabs at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

Despite a second-half charge by the Oles, Concordia hung on for a 33-29 win in its Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener.

The furry, moss-covered Troll, first introduced in 1974, was presented to the Cobbers after the game and was passed around for anyone desiring a photo with what has now become known as the ‘Ugliest’ traveling trophy in college football.

“After the all the buzz about it there was no way we could let it leave Moorhead,” Concordia senior safety Bryce Hentges said. “We had to keep it another year.”

Earlier in the week, Concordia sports information director Jim Cella sent a photo of the trophy via Twitter to “College GameDay” host Chris Fowler in hopes that it could get a brief mention on the 3-hour show that was hosted in Fargo this week to highlight two-time FCS national champion North Dakota State.

After the Troll’s lineage and authenticity were verified, Cella got a message from Fowler he wasn’t expecting: “Bring It”

Cella, with Troll in tow, arrived in downtown Fargo at 5 a.m. on Saturday for “GameDay’s” final production meeting. He learned it would make an appearance on national television only feeding to its legend that grew tenfold this week.

The Troll was featured in the show’s third hour and was placed dead center on the “GameDay” desk where Fowler and other personalities commented on it.

“As I was looking at it on the set I thought, ‘this is a dream; this is just so surreal,’” Cella said.

After its brush with national fame, the Troll returned to Moorhead.

Concordia players were attending chapel when the Troll was on ESPN, but junior Brandon Zylstra said a post-game viewing gathering was in the works.

“There was a lot of hype about it,” Zylstra said. “It is good for our college to get our name out there. It’s good to keep it at home too, even though it is ugly.”

Concordia head coach Terry Horan keeps the Troll in his office and doesn’t think it’s ever out of place.

“That trophy is beautiful in my eyes,” Horan said. “If it’s in my office, that means something good has happened and we’ll take that any time.”

A big first half allowed Concordia (3-0, 1-0 MIAC) to enter halftime up 26-14. Dominic Fraboni and Griffin Neal each scored rushing touchdowns for the Cobbers in the first quarter.

Hentges opened the second quarter with an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown and also had a key interception in the first half.

The second half was when St. Olaf (1-2, 0-1) made the game interesting. Jake Schmiesing’s 12-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter pulled St. Olaf to within five points of Concordia.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Oles threatened to take the lead when J.J. Strnad took a handoff on third-and-goal at Concordia’s 2-yard line, but before Strnad broke the plain the ball was jarred and recovered by Concordia’s Pedro Peterson in the end zone for a touchback.

Concordia responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped off by a 28-yard reverse rushing touchdown with 6 minutes, 38 second left to play.

“That one was fun,” Zylstra said. “We watched a lot of film on them and we thought we could exploit their defense with that play. It was a good time to use it late in the fourth quarter.”

“That was a big play for them,” Craig Stern added. “It came off of a turnover. We took points of the board for ourselves there with that one. (Zylstra) made a great play and it proved to be the pivotal point in the game.”

St. Olaf pulled back to within three points of Concordia after a 70-yard touchdown catch from Schmiesing and successful two-point conversion, but the Cobbers offense sealed the victory by picking up two first downs on its final possession.

St. Olaf 7 7 7 8–29

Concordia 13 13 0 7–33

C–Fraboni 10 run (Wagner kick)

C–Neal 20 run (run failed)

SO–Strnad 1 run (Tusa kick)

C–Hentges 85 kickoff return (Wagner kick)

C–Wagner 33 field goal

SO–Strnad 4 run (Tusa kick)

C–Wagner 37 field goal

SO–Schmiesing 12 pass from Penz (Tusa kick)

C–Zylstra 28 run (Wagner kick)

SO–Schmiesing 70 pass from Penz (Kragness from Penz).

TEAM STATISTICS SO C

First downs 19 22

Rushes-yards 31-92 35-154

Passing 267 180

Comp-Att-Int 19-29-1 17-28-0

Punts-Avg. 5-36.8 5-42.6

Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-0

Penalties-Yards 2-32 4-37

Time of possession 30:05 29:38

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: SO, Pryor 3-28, Penz 8-24, Jujan 4-18, Strnad 13-17. C, Neal 14-83, Fraboni 11-48, Zylstra 2-35, Peterson 1-4.

PASSING: SO, Penz 18-28-1–261, Pryor 1-1-0–6. C, Neal 17-27-0–180, Team 0-1-0–0.

RECEIVING: SO Asp 5-83, Reinhardt 3-32, Strnad 2-15, Schmiesing 2-82. C, Whiting 6-61, Zylstra 3-25, Baune 2-25, Peterson 2-24.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562