The Minnesota Duluth football team was reeling a bit as Northern State rattled off 14 unanswered points to take a 28-13 lead midway through the second quarter of their NSIC regular-season finale Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

UMD started John Larson at quarterback, but the senior, coming back from injury, isn’t quite there yet as a passer, missing on a couple deep balls to Armani Carmickle, so Bulldogs coach Curt Wiese told backup Garrett Olson to start warming up. He was going in.

Olson may not have started the game, but he sure did finish it, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns and running for another score to lead No. 23 UMD to a 49-35 victory over Northern State before 1,716 on a chilly 34-degree day at Malosky Stadium.

With the win, the Bulldogs (9-2) won at least a share of the overall NSIC championship and staked a strong claim to being in the NCAA Division II football tournament. The NCAA selection show is 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, on NCAA.com. UMD was ranked seventh in this week’s Super Region Four rankings, with the top seven teams in each region comprising the 28-team NCAA Division II playoff field.

“We beat a good team in Northern State and improved our strength of schedule,” Wiese said. “I would have to think we’re in the national playoffs.”

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Senior quarterback Hunter Trautman was 20-for-45 passing for 388 yards, with four touchdowns and an interception to lead Northern State (7-4), but even after all that he was kind of overshadowed by Olson.

“We put Garrett in there to take a shot, and on his first pass under center he hit Armani down the sidelines,” Wiese said. “Garrett continues to play at a high level. He’s a team player, has been his whole career, and every time he has been called upon he has stepped up and made plays.”

How is this for making plays?

Olson started 5-for-5 passing for 152 yards and three touchdowns. No need to shake off the rust here. Olson, who played admirably in the Bulldogs’ 41-15 victory over then No. 17 Augustana last week at Malosky Stadium, was good to go.

“Garrett was prepared,” Wiese said. “We really prepared him all week to be the starter, but we made the call on Friday that John would get the start. It was Senior Day, we knew John could come out and play, and play well, and John did play well, but we needed a spark, and Garrett gave it to us.”

Olson finished 11-for-16 passing while Carmickle finished with eight receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns as he broke D.J. Winfield’s single-season record of 1,201 receiving yards from 2008. Carmickle now has 1,214 on the season. Like Olson, Carmickle is a senior but both players have another year of eligibility remaining after last year was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like UMD’s Larson, Trautman came back for another season and the Wolves came up just short in their bid to make the NCAA playoffs.

Both Trautman and Larson, when healthy, are worthy of professional tryouts.

“Those two have been in this league for a long time, and have done a lot of great things, so it was cool to see them finish off their careers in the regular season against each other,” Northern State coach Mike Schmidt said. “I thought John played great, and hats off to him and the plan that they had, but then we kind of found our groove. We were ready for him, but he did a great job considering the circumstances he’s faced this season. It was a great adjustment by their staff in understanding what they had to do to get back into that game. Really, it was only a sequence of a few plays.”

Larson finished 6-for-10 passing for 60 yards and a touchdown. He also guided UMD on a couple field goal scoring drives, but when Northern State’s offense was clicking, it was going to be hard to keep pace scoring threes compared to the sevens.

Exit Larson, enter Olson.

“A lot of what Bulldog football is about is playing as a team, and it doesn’t matter who’s in or who’s not,” Olson said. “As long as you know you’re playing for the guy next to you, it doesn’t matter who’s in. That’s how, as a team, we like to go about it, and if we keep doing that, I think we can win a lot of games.”

After Wade Sullivan’s 7-yard TD run gave UMD a 42-28 lead with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter, the Bulldogs went to senior Cazz Martin to work the clock in the fourth quarter. Martin finished with 27 carries for 191 yards as he became the first UMD back to top 1,000 rushing yards since Logan Lauters ran for 1,526 yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 games in 2014.

Wiese likes to spread the love after a win, and he certainly did so Saturday, praising kicker Curt Cox, among others, but it was impossible to ignore the jolt Olson provided. The stats, and more importantly, the numbers on the scoreboard, were impossible to ignore.

“A lot of the credit has to go to Garrett,” Wiese said. “He’s a selfless football player and we’re very fortunate to have him. Garrett came in, he had the hot hand, so we stayed with him.”

Northern State 7-21-7-0—35

Minn. Duluth 13-15-14-7—49

First Quarter

NSU — Hunter Trautman 2 run (Payton Eue kick), 10:41

UMD — Curt Cox 37 field goal, 6:05

UMD — Cox 30 field goal, 4:20

UMD — Sam Pitz 26 pass from John Larson (Cox kick), :19

Second Quarter

NSU — Dakota Larson 57 pass from Trautman (Eue kick), 12:44

NSU — Larson 26 pass from Trautman (Eue kick), 7:13

NSU — Dewaylon Ingram 68 pass from Trautman (Eue kick), 5:12

UMD — Armani Carmickle 43 pass from Garrett Olson (Cox kick), 4:54

UMD — Pitz 5 pass from Olson (Johnny McCormick run), 1:46

Third Quarter

UMD — Carmickle 27 pass from Olson (Cox kick), 11:42

UMD — Wade Sullivan 7 run (Cox kick), 4:02

NSU — Ingram 11 pass from Trautman (Eue kick), :26

Fourth Quarter

UMD — Olson 1 run (Cox kick), 5:42

NSU UMD

First downs 23 22

Rushes-yards 25-87 43-251

Passing yards 388 286

Comp-Att-Int 20-45-1 17-26-0

Kick returns-yards 8-77 6-131

Punts-avg 2-42.5 4-34.3

Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0

Penalties-yards 6-62 11-96

Time of possession 24:41 35:19

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — NSU, Vance Barnes 9-61, Brett Brenton 10-47, Trautman 6-(-21). UMD, Cazz Martin 27-191, Sullivan 7-40, Carmickle 2-16, Olson 2-4, Larson 2-3, Team 3-(-3).

PASSING — NSU, Trautman 20-45-338-4. UMD, Olson 11-16-226-3, Larson 6-10-60-1.

RECEIVING — NSU, Ingram 9-200, Larson 7-149, Ben Noland 3-30, Brenton 1-9. UMD, Carmickle 8-184, Pitz 2-31, Sullivan 3-30, Bynum 1-29, McCormick 1-8, Martin 2-4.