College football: Tinklenberg, Jays rout Vermilion
BY AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- Caleb Tinklenberg had never played quarterback before.
But when Minnesota West head football coach Jeff Linder needed someone under center, he turned to the sophomore.
"Coach saw my arm in practice," Tinklenberg said. "I threw a couple fake passes. He saw my arm, so he wanted to try it and it's been going pretty good."
Tinklenberg ran for a touchdown and threw for another to lead West to a 41-8 victory over Vermilion on Friday night.
"I think we played together as a team really well," Tinklenberg said. "We had a few mistakes on offense and defense, but as an overall team, I think we really stepped up this week from the last two weeks."
Tinklenberg started the season as the kicker and wide receiver for the Bluejays. But after an injury forced him into a different role, he has now played a total of nine quarters as the signal caller.
"I think I'm doing pretty good," he said. "I still can work on a few little things. Overall, I'm not doing too bad, I guess. It's a little scary, but it's not that bad. After playing wide receiver, I know how the defense plays. It's not like going from defense to offense."
While the West offense was clicking, so too was the defense.
The Bluejays forced six turnovers and allowed 157 yards.
"We had a week off to re-establish ourselves," West cornerback Cornell Washington said. "We came together as a team. We worked a lot of communication during practice and it just clicked today."
The Vermilion offense kept throwing at Washington. And he made them pay. Washington had three first-half interceptions -- his first picks of the year.
"That's crazy," he said. "It's just surreal."
He returned one of his interceptions for a 38-yard touchdown.
"It's a blessing. That was my first pick-6 ever in life. All glory to God for that," Washington said. "He went for a post, I just went up for it and got it and took it to the crib. I had a nice block from my linebacker La'Darous (Laster) and I was able to get in."
West scored on its first possession on a seven-yard run by Brandon Jackson. After an interception by Henry White IV, West struck again, this time on a five-yard keeper from Tinklenberg. Washington's pick-6 gave the Bluejays a 21-0 at halftime.
"We did a lot to get them the ball back and put them in good field position," Washington said. "Our offensive line was doing great blocking this game. We were able to click on both sides of the ball this time."
Darrick Gardner scored on a four-yard run to start the third quarter for West before Khaileb Desmond scored from 10 yards out. After an Ironmen TD, Tinklenberg hit Reginald Colson III for a 26-yard touchdown to cap the scoring.
"We ran the ball a little bit and controlled the clock a little bit," Linder said. "Caleb had a great game. He's just an athlete. I thought we did what we needed to do to win the game. The defense had a bunch of turnovers for us. Whenever they score, that's good."
West had 404 yards of total offense. Tinklenberg completed 17 of 38 passes for 255 yards. MW ran for 149 yards, led by 50 from Desmond, 39 from Gardner and 27 from Jackson.
"We spread it around pretty good," Linder said. "We had a couple different guys run the ball well for us, that was kind of exciting. We were able to run the ball, which was something we'd really like to do more of."
The Bluejays (4-4) open the playoffs Sunday, Oct. 28, at Northland. The Pioneers defeated MW 56-36 two weeks ago.
"Our defense needs to play like they did today," Tinklenberg said. "Last time we played Northland, our offense did really well and our defense did not do very good. If we both play good, I think we'll come out with a win."Vermilion 0 0 0 8 -- 8Minnesota West 14 7 13 7 -- 41