The timing couldn’t have been any better. With Friends and Family Weekend drawing a larger crowd than usual on Saturday, the Knox College football team shocked the Midwest Conference with a 31-21 win over Grinnell College.
At first, it appeared that the Prairie Fire (1-5, 1-4) defense was not ready to play. In less than two minutes, the Pioneers drove 65 yards down the field for a touchdown. It would be Grinnell’s (4-2, 3-2) only score of the first half. The defense went on to have its best performance of the year, snagging six interceptions and scooping up two fumbles. Senior linebacker Kevin Beck had three interceptions alone in the victory. “I just played Knox College defense, what coaches taught us, and that put me in great spots to make moves on the ball,” Beck said.
After a missed field goal by the Prairie Fire, Grinnell looked to expand their 7-0 lead. However, the defense forced its first turnover of the game, stripping the ball from the Pioneers on the 18-yard line. With great field position, the Knox offense took the field. A few plays later, senior running back Dan Kizior sprinted into the end zone from the five-yard line.
A defensive battle ensued and possession changed ten times before either team would score again. With less than four minutes to go in the second quarter, sophomore Doug Lillibridge hit a 29-yard field goal to put the Prairie Fire ahead 9-7. Knox would remain in the lead for the rest of the game. It appeared that this would be the score going into the break, but Knox got a chance to add to their small lead. The offense drove forty yards, and with seven seconds left, junior Wolf Vos crossed the goal line from a yard out, putting Knox on top 17-7 as time expired.
Both offenses stalled to open up the second half, but with 5:31 left in the third quarter, Grinnell quarterback Mike Bogard threw a 28-yard strike to put the Pioneers within a field goal. Unfortunately for Grinnell, the momentum swung back towards Knox just 21 seconds later. Freshman quarterback Drew Diaz linked up with sophomore Jonas Mack for an 80-yard bomb, putting the Prairie Fire in the lead by ten points again.
Down 24-14, Grinnell put together their best offensive series of the game to start the fourth quarter, amassing 88 yards on their way to a touchdown. With the score now 24-21 in favor of Knox, it looked as if the game was going down to the wire. The Prairie Fire offense didn’t want that to happen, apparently. Diaz found junior Clarke Cuthbert for a 38-yard touchdown pass to make the score 31-21.
The Pioneers got the ball back with eight minutes still to go in the contest, but Beck and the Knox defense would force two more turnovers to lock up the victory. “It was definitely a team effort,” Beck said. Beck’s three interceptions earned him Midwest Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. When asked what the win did for Knox players, he said, “The team is only going up from here. What this win means is that we can play with anybody in the conference, no matter what the records show.”
Looking to build off this win, Knox will travel to Jacksonville, Ill. next week to take on Illinois College. “We cannot be content with one win,” Beck said. “We need to go out and fix our mistakes so we can get even better next week at Illinois College.”