Up against the defending league champions in St. Norbert the Knox football team had little room for error last Saturday. But turnovers and mental mistakes plagued the Prairie Fire throughout the day, resulting in a 43-7 loss to the Green Knights.
The opening moments of the game proved to be sloppy on both sides. After Knox fumbled on the opening kickoff, giving St. Norbert outstanding field position, Green Knight receiver Joe Green fumbled at the goal-line to give the ball back to the Prairie Fire. On the ensuing drive Knox worked their way into St. Norbert territory, only to lose a fumble once again, this time on a strip sack of sophomore quarterback Drew Diaz.
St. Norbert capitalized on the momentum, scoring on three of their next four possessions to take a 21-0 lead into half time.
The Green Knights continued this trend coming out of the break, scoring on the first two drives of the second half to take a 36-0 lead.
It was a frustrating day to say the least for the Knox coaching staff, “It was our first road game and we didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” head coach Chad Eisele said, “The thing that was frustrating is that we are still making some very elementary mistakes: formation issues, running the right routes. Those are things during the week we are fine with, then in a game situation we miss. But that is in part a coaching issue.”
On a positive note Knox rushed for 92 yards against a St. Norbert defense which up until Saturday had allowed a total of 39 yards this season.
“We ran the ball ok,” Eisele said, “but we need to get a lot more consistent because that is the key to the whole offense.”
Eisele’s note of consistency probably seem to be rooted in the fact that Knox managed only 2.6 yards a carry, not enough to sustain long drives.
St. Norbert’s offensive on the other hand, had very little problem keeping drives going. The Green Knights were 12 of 16 on third down, and racked up over 500 yards of total offense.
One of the few bright spots for Knox came in the form of junior punter/kicker Doug Lillibridge, who early in the third quarter booted an 83-yard punt. The feat, good enough for sixth longest in the history of the Midwest Conference, is even more impressive considering Lillibridge has only been playing football for two years.
“I had no idea about technique or form last year, so I took some lessons and it has really paid off. I worked extremely hard this off-season,” Lillibridge said. His 41.2 punting average currently leads the conference.
The punt only added to what was a memorable day for Lillibridge, as he had earlier converted a fourth and 18 via a 22 hard run on a fake punt.
“I felt a lot of pressure and instincts took over from there,” Lillibridge said, “My original thought was to get off a quick punt, but I saw an opportunity and took it.”
Even Knox players and coaches fell for the fake, as it was not called by anyone on the sideline.
“It wasn’t called, but coach was happy I got the first down. If I had come up short it might have been a different story,” he said.
Kicking wise Lillibridge only tallied once, an extra point after back-up quarterback Mike Pinter connected with Dustin Armstrong for a late touchdown pass that broke up the shutout.
Defensively Knox was led by Mike Hendrick, who now leads the MWC with 41 tackles.
Knox’s next game is a home contest this Saturday against Beloit. After a rough 0-3 start, it could possibly make or break the season.
“You never want to say it is a must win game, but this is really a big game for us,” Eisele said, “We just need to play to our potential, and that is really what we are focused on.”