Sports / The Prairie Fire / October 15, 2009

Fire fall as first quarter fumbles foil fun

Knox College’s football team continued its intellectual pursuits last Saturday, hunting tirelessly for the 23rd letter of the alphabet.

Facing Grinnell in the Knosher Bowl, Knox hoped to take its first win of the season from a Pioneers team that had been smashed by a bunch of Scotsmen the week prior. Despite a tough game played by both sides, two early fumbles turned into scores handed Grinnell the win, 27-12.

“The first three minutes, we’re down 17-0 before we even know it,” Knox head coach Andy Gibbons said. “Then we’re fighting through a battle. Heck, our defense played the best game it’s played all year, but you find yourself down 17-0, that’s the story of the game.”

The game started off well enough for the Prairie Fire (0-6, 0-5), as they stopped Grinnell (2-4,2-3) and their unique offense powered by quarterback Mike Bogard on downs to get the ball at their own 31. Unfortunately, sophomore Randy Whitmore had the ball forced from his grasp, and it was returned to the end zone to give Grinnell the score. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, sophomore return man Dexter Brown was clobbered on the return, coughing up the ball to Grinnell. The Pioneers scored two plays later to go up by 14. After a Knox three-and-out, Bogard drove his team down the field and kicked a field goal himself, to give the Pioneers a 17-0 lead.

“When you’re a team that’s having the struggles we’re having, you can’t start a game like that,” Gibbons said. “The guys kept battling, give them credit, but we just couldn’t overcome it in the end.”

Knox’s defense performed with aplomb when given good field position, allowing only 51 yards rushing on a ground-game based team, while holding them to 10 points after the first five minutes of the game. Add that to the 195 yards passing, and you have a very good defensive game. Team leader in tackles, senior Aaron Juarez, had a typical day, totaling eight to lead the team, including three in the backfield. All-American senior defensive end Tighe Burke took down six men, while pressuring Bogard and drawing double-teams all day.

“[Burke]’s by far their best defensive player,” Grinnell coach Max Hawsey said. “We were very aware of what he could do, and tried to formation some stuff so he was on the backside, also being aware of his pass rush moves.”

Likewise, the offense of Knox performed with perhaps their best game of the year. The team rushed for 199 yards, led by junior QB Bill Meyer with 73 yards. Meyer also threw for 54 yards and a touchdown late, caught by senior Derek LaRosa. Despite all this though, the Fire did fall to Grinnell.

The Prairie Fire have another chance to find that elusive “W” as they take a trip to Appleton, Wis. on Saturday to face Lawrence, the 10th-ranked team in the conference. A win here can start the Fire on a roll, and with any luck take it to the Monmouth Fighting Scots in the Turkey Bowl on Nov. 7, which starts at 1 p.m. But before Knox faces the Scots, they play host to Carroll University on Oct. 24, which also happens to be Homecoming.

Merritt Rohlfing

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