Golden Scots, Part 5: Scots dominate Carls, hang on to edge Kohawks, Siwash
In the past 100 years, only one full season of Monmouth College football has ended without a single blemish. The Fighting Scots were a perfect 9-0 in 1972, winning four blowouts before a series of five straight contested victories, capped by a triumph over arch-rival St. Olaf. That victory over the Oles gave Monmouth its first-ever outright Midwest Conference football championship. There would not be another one for 33 years. By then, undefeated regular seasons were rewarded with a trip to the NCAA playoffs, so that 2005 campaign – and three others since – ended with postseason defeats. That makes 1972 the last undefeated season for Fighting Scots football.
In this series, players from that historic team, now in their early 70s, look back on that memorable fall, and so does their head coach, the legendary Bill Reichow.
MONMOUTH — What was missing from Monmouth’s first three victories of the 1972 season was a shutout, and the defense provided that against Carleton, blanking the Fighting Scots’ guests 47-0 in front of a Homecoming crowd of 4,000 fans.
Monmouth’s offense was an even bigger part of the story, though, as the Scots gained a school-record 679 yards, still one of the highest totals in program history. Monmouth broke off five scoring plays of 18 yards or longer, including a 52-yard run by Matt Entrup on his first-ever varsity carry, a 34-yarder by Dennis Plummer and a 38-yard pass from Tim Burk to Charlie Goehl, who finished with seven catches for 110 yards. Plummer ran for 202 yards on 16 carries, setting a record that was eclipsed a year later by Ron Baker. The team’s 532 rushing yards is a record that may never be broken.
The Scots held their guests to 46 yards. More of Carleton’s 12 pass attempts were caught by Scots (four) than the Carls (three), and the visitors ran for just 12 yards. Linemen Mike Kuhnkey and Steve Pinkus were singled out for their defensive play.
Through four games, Monmouth’s offense led the nation in yards and points, with an average score of 51-7. But the remainder of the season saw scores that were more like old times, as the Scots found themselves in a series of tight games against the top half of the conference.
“The St. Olaf game (at the end of the season) was pretty anticlimactic,” said Plummer. “They weren’t very good. But the rest of the conference was better than it had been.”
In addition to tougher opponents, Mother Nature threw some sloppy weather at the Scots for the second half of the season. Pass attempts went down and fumbles went up as Monmouth tried to stay perfect.
Coe 'threw everything' at Scots' offense
The Scots kept cruising through halftime of their next game, leading 9-0 at Coe. Most Scots fans would’ve struggled to name the last time that Monmouth won in Cedar Rapids. Reichow’s first two encounters with the Kohawks were both losses, finishing off Monmouth’s 16-game losing streak against Coe. The Scots hadn’t won the matchup in Iowa since 1948, before any of the current players were born.
“We changed that atmosphere,” said Reichow.
A short Al Shepherd touchdown set up by a long Mick Birkhofer run was the Scots’ first-half TD, and Monmouth tacked on a score in the second half – a 6-yard run by Plummer, who finished with 132 yards – to lead 16-0. But the Scots wouldn’t score again, and Coe provided some drama with a pair of TD passes from Rick Kleinhans to Bob Breitbach, the latter one coming with nine minutes left. Neither two-point conversion was successful, and Monmouth held on for a 16-12 victory.
“One of the big moments in preserving the perfect season was the Coe game,” said Plummer. “We didn’t play well. They played on a community field up there, and it was like concrete. I remember they had us pinned down a whole bunch of times, and they outplayed us.”
“They got down 16-0, and they just started trying everything on defense, stunting and all that,” said Tom Kratochvil. “They threw everything at our offense but the kitchen sink.”
“I remember later in the game there were two or three times we had third-and-long, and I had runs of seven or eight yards so we wouldn’t have to punt,” said Plummer. “Charlie Goehl tried to kiss me through my face mask after the last one.”
Monmouth had taken back some turf in the rivalry with their third straight victory over Coe, but the Kohawks would gain a measure of revenge in 1973, winning the league title by a half-game over Monmouth despite another loss to the Scots.
'Knox was a tough place to play'
Outscored 12-0 at the end of the Coe game, Monmouth’s mini-slump continued the following week in the annual meeting with Knox, which for many years wasn’t played as the schools’ final regular season game, as it has been every year except one since 1982.
“Knox was a tough place to play,” said Paul Waszak. “They always played us tough.”
Except for the ’71 game, recalled Tom Kratochvil.
“We’d blown them out the year before at Homecoming (winning 47-13),” he said. “The first five times we had the ball, we scored. It was 34-0 at halftime.”
Reichow was undefeated to that point against the Siwash, but three of the victories had come by a combined nine points. The 1973 game would end in a 7-7 tie, costing the Scots a share of the MWC title.
The Siwash came into the 1972 game on a bit of hot streak, having defeated Carleton 36-17, with freshman Rick Truttman rushing for 284 yards, which remains the Knox record 50 years later. Truttman picked up where he left off against Monmouth, scoring on a 33-yard triple-option run. The PAT failed, and Knox led 6-0 after one quarter.
Plummer responded with a key play, breaking off a 71-yard TD run – nearly half of his 146-yard total – to put Monmouth ahead 7-6 at the half, and his 8-yard third-quarter score made it 14-6. A 61-yard pass play from Greg Divers to Mike Kubicki brought Knox within two, but the potential game-tying two-point conversion pass was dropped and the score remained 14-12.
The drama was far from over, though, as Knox had a chance to take the lead on a 31-yard field goal attempt with less than three minutes remaining. The kick missed, but the Siwash had one more chance, getting the ball back with less than two minutes left. But the Scots picked off a pass and sealed the outcome on John Carter’s 18-yard TD.
Kratochvil recalled the series of events that led to the final touchdown.
“Knox played us tough and played a good game, but toward the end, they took a couple cheap shots at Timmy (Burk),” he said. “We were pissed off, but the last thing we wanted to do was retaliate on the field. Coach Reichow would’ve really let us have it for that. So we just got back at them on the scoreboard. I remember being in the huddle and saying ‘Let’s put this !@#$ game away.’ We ran a play for Carter. He was so fast, but he had small hands, so he had trouble hanging onto the ball sometimes. I told him, ‘John, you hang on to this ball, and you’re going to score.’ We blew a hole wide open, and he was gone.”
Monmouth had clinched a 21-12 victory.
“The guys on my offensive line were determined, hard-nosed and winners,” said Burk. “I felt like they were always watching my back.”