Knox College head football coach Andy Gibbons undoubtedly hoped that his Prairie Fire football team would play two halves against Ripon College like its first half against Illinois College the week before.
Unfortunately, Knox left Ripon, Wis. dejected after playing two halves against the Hawks like the second half against the Blueboys.
The Ripon Red Hawks gave Knox a long bus ride home after routing the Fire 47-0, holding the Knox offense to just 88 total yards, the third-fewest yards allowed in Ripon history, while racking up 550 yards of their own on offense.
“It goes without saying that we did not play well at all last Saturday,” Gibbons said.
Ripon did most of its scoring in the first half, jumping out to a 37-0 lead at intermission. Knox was bitten early by the “big-play” bug, allowing touchdown runs of 12, 22 and 22 yards. Two more punch-ins from within two yards put Knox up against a wall at 34-0. Ripon scored three final points on a 38-yard field goal from Jacob Gehart and went into the half with a comfortable advantage.
Gehart added a 31-yard field goal 10 minutes into the second half, and Ripon scored one final touchdown in the fourth quarter on an eight-yard run.
Senior Aaron Juarez and freshman Kyle Brubaker led the Knox defense with 9.5 tackles apiece. Brubaker also forced a fumble, while senior Tighe Burke forced the only Red Hawk turnover with a third-quarter interception.
Knox (0-3, 0-2) returns home this Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest with Beloit College (2-1, 1-1), and while the home atmosphere will help the Fire’s chances, several injuries to key players may put Knox in a personnel disadvantage in its front seven.
Senior linebacker Blaine Murphy broke a bone in his knee and is likely out for the season. Kevin Beck, another senior linebacker, is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game against the Buccaneers.
“Losing Murph and Beck is big,” senior co-captain Tyler Hopfauf said. “They bring a lot to the defense, and it will be hard to fill their shoes.”
Sophomore Dan Page and freshman Will Grumke will platoon to fill Murphy’s void, while sophomore Tony Sickley, who had 7.5 tackles at Ripon, will step into Beck’s role.
“They are very good, young players,” Gibbons said.
“We’re confident that Grumke, Sickley and Page will get the job done adequately,” Hopfauf said.
In better news, junior defensive lineman Isaac Juarez returns to the lineup after three weeks on the sidelines with a dislocated toe suffered in pre-season camp.
“We’re glad to have him back,” Gibbons said. “Just excited to have him back.”
Beloit will bring a balanced offensive attack to the Knosher Bowl, but will rely on a defense that, prior to its 58-0 loss to Monmouth last weekend, had allowed just 507 total yards of offense in its first two games.
Hopfauf’s keys to the game are simple.
“For us to beat Beloit, we need to play much faster and play to the ability we know we have for 60 minutes.”