Sports / The Prairie Fire / October 29, 2009

Fire falters in front of Homecoming hullabaloo

It was a picture-perfect day; crisp and clear in late October as alumni from around the country flocked to their alma mater to see their gladiators of the gridiron do battle once again.

The Knox College Prairie Fire took to the Knosher Bowl, still in the hunt for their first win of the season, ready to clash with the Pioneers of Carroll College. It was a scene out of a beautiful movie. Unfortunately, once again this picture ended in tragedy with Carroll being the latest foe to best Knox, felling them 28-7.

Knox (0-8, 0-7) seemed primed for a win, facing a team that ranks in the bottom half of the conference in rush defense. Things went bad quickly, though, with Knox having a six-play, 11-yard drive to open up the game before punting. Carroll took control swiftly, using a blend of run and pass to confuse the defense and work downfield for a score, at the same time bleeding six minutes off the clock. This would prove to be the rule of the day, with Carroll holding the ball for 39:46, easily controlling the tempo of the game.

“We had some stops, we had some plays, we had some opportunities, but we just couldn’t take advantage of it in the end,” Knox head coach Andy Gibbons said.

After another score by Carroll in the second quarter, Knox was able to cut the deficit in half with a deep bomb from junior quarterback Bill Meyer to junior Dan Kizior, electrifying the Homecoming crowd and giving Knox the feeling it needed. Unfortunately, the proceeding kickoff return gave the Pioneers the ball at the Carroll 47 with 1:09 left in the half. The Knox secondary was diced up by Carroll’s Chris Casper, driving down the field for the score with 13 seconds left in the half. With a solid 21-7 lead and a death grip on the momentum, Carroll was in the driver’s seat the rest of the way, ultimately sealing the win with another score in the fourth.

“You can’t start the drive on the 50,” Gibbons said. “Our kickoff team has got to do a better job, and then the defense has got to be tougher and stop it in the last minute and a half.”

Defensively, Knox allowed 432 total yards, including 241 on the ground, at a 4.7 yards-per-carry clip. Senior Aaron Juarez led the team in tackles with 11 tackles. Senior Tighe Burke notched two sacks and junior Lucas Motta was second in tackles on the day with seven.

Offensively, the Fire fared worse than their defensive counterparts. Knox had 49 net rushing yards while passing for 88 and a touchdown. Meyer did all the throwing for the Fire, going 3-for-9 on the day with two picks, while freshman Derek Mortensen led the ground attack with 35 yards on seven carries.

Now staring down what is a very realistic shot at a winless season, an event that has not happened at Knox since 1978, Knox travels to Lake Forest before hosting Monmouth College, ranked tenth in the nation, in the Bronze Turkey Game.

“All we can do is keep working, and stay positive,” Gibbons said. “Just focus on Lake Forest, and keep trying to get better.”

Merritt Rohlfing

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