Monmouth College felt an unnatural press on their sterling record Saturday, facing Knox College in the 121st meeting of the Bronze Turkey Game. Ranked eighth nationally, the Scots, normally so dominant on both sides of the ball, faced consternation at the fact they only led the bottom-dwelling Prairie Fire by a touchdown going into halftime.
Despite the excitement of the first half, the dread of losing was enough to motivate the men in red, as they ultimately smote the Prairie Fire 42-0 in what would prove to be Andy Gibbons’ last game as head coach.
The Scots (10-0, 9-0) came into the game already having locked up the Midwest Conference title, while the Fire (1-9,1-8) having broken through with a win the previous week, went out to play with reckless abandon. And play they did, at least on defense. After winning the game on the back of the D, Knox looked to minimize the damage Scots QB Alex Tanney’s arm could do.
“I think we proved in the first half that we can play football with the eighth-ranked team in the nation,” Gibbons said. “You have to give them credit; they have a ton of speed at receiver, Alex Tanney’s a great quarterback, and the second half they really got it.”
After going three-and-out on their opening possession, the Fire was forced to punt away, just as the Scots hoped. Monmouth proceeded to drive down the field in 48 seconds, scoring quickly and giving the crowd exactly what it expected. Knox would go three-and-out on the following possession, and the Scots got ready to score again. That’s where the script was changed, without the Scots getting the notice. Monmouth drove down to the Knox three, and the Fire red zone defense came alive, stopping the Scots in four plays inside the ten, forcing a turnover on downs.
That would be the story of the first half, with Tanney looking unsettled in the pocket and the Knox defense swarming to the ball, evidenced by the eight tackles attributed to the entire team. Tanney threw an interception in the end zone, his seventh of the year, to freshman Kyle Brubaker. It was one piece of an outstanding defensive game. Junior Lucas Motta was the tackles leader, gathering 10.5 while breaking up two passes. Senior Tighe Burke had two sacks and a forced fumble, and junior Calvin Zirkle did his lockdown corner, breaking up four passes and tackling seven.
“We played to our potential, and our seniors really laid it out there in the first half,” Gibbons said. “The second half, that first (Monmouth) drive only took a minute, and that kind of started to deflate us.”
Even so, the Scots were able to rack up 698 yards in offense, doing well in between the 20’s, and exploding for 21 points in the third and 14 more in the fourth to seal a commanding victory. Knox’s offense was held silent, not seeing the end zone, and gaining only 199 total yards.
“I’m proud of the way our guys played,” Gibbons said. “It was a good game. You could look at the score and say it wasn’t, but it was a very good, exciting game.”