Halftime adjustments are critical in a football game. The changes made by Monmouth College on Saturday made all the difference in a 42-6 victory over Knox College in the annual Bronze Turkey game. The win extends Monmouth’s streak in the series to twelve in a row.
After a solid opening drive, the Knox College (1-9, 1-8) offense was stopped. Sophomore Doug Lillibridge game on to punt, and his ball was downed at the Scots one-yard line. Unfortunately, the Prairie Fire defense could not stop the Monmouth offense. After nine plays, running back Trey Yocum scored from the one-yard line to cap a 99-yard drive.
Knox began moving the ball again, but an interception returned possession to Monmouth (6-4, 6-3). However, the very next play, defensive end and junior Elliot Madison intercepted Monmouth quarterback Brik Wedekind’s pass, giving the Prairie Fire offense fantastic field position.
Seconds later, points were on the board as Bill Meyer hit pay dirt from five yards out. Lillibridge’s extra point was blocked, and Monmouth would hold onto the lead, 7-6, heading into the second quarter.
Neither offense could do much until 3:54 left in the first half when Wedekind saw an opening, and sprinted 24 yards into the end zone. After a quick stop defensively, the Monmouth offense received the ball back with enough time to score again. Junior Adam Mize would not let that happen. He intercepted Wedekind to hold the score at 14-6 at the break.
Monmouth received the ball to start the third quarter and scored in a little over two minutes. They would score two more touchdowns, giving them a commanding lead of 35-6. Knox would not score the entire second half. “We need to improve on our overall team strength,” Head Coach and Athletic Director Chad Eisele said. “They physically took over in the second half, but that is something we can improve on.”
James Lauber scored the final touchdown of the game on a ten-yard run with 3:42 to go in the game. Despite the score, the Knox offense was productive. Freshman Drew Diaz went 20-42, with 188 yards through the air, out gaining Monmouth’s 145 passing yards. The Scots dominated the ground game with 319 yards, but Knox had a respectable 82 yards rushing.
Defensively, the Prairie Fire surrendered a lot of points. However, this game displayed some of the young talent Knox has and will be able to build off of next year. “We are a young team that doesn’t quit,” Eisele said, “and I am excited about our future.” Due to a number of injuries, a lot of underclassmen saw playing time. “We will return 34 players that started for us at some point this year,” Eisele said. “A lot of them are first-years and sophomores.”
Sophomore Mike Hendrick and freshman Jim Hammar displayed some of this young talent on Saturday. Hendrick tallied 15 tackles, including one for a loss, and Hammar racked up eight tackles, one of which was a sack. “Younger players gained a lot of experience this year,” Hammar said. “We will be ready to compete for a conference championship next year with the players we have.”
For 11 seniors, Saturday’s contest marks the last time they will strap up for the purple and gold. “This year was a big learning year for me,” Hammar said. “The seniors helped me adjust to a new position, new play book and new team.” More importantly, the veterans served as role models for their younger teammates. “The seniors taught us how to take responsibility for our actions and the importance of sacrificing for the betterment of the team,” Hammar said.
Coach Eisele had this to say of these special players, “The seniors led this young team. Their strong work ethic and positive attitude really helped teach our young players how to do things right.”