Before Saturday, nobody had ever heard of Sam Durley.
But 736 pass yards later, the Eureka quarterback was a Sportscenter top play with his name spread across the Twitterverse. The performance broke an NCAA record and propelled the Red Devils to a 62-55 victory over the Knox College football team in the inaugural Abraham Lincoln Bowl.
From a Knox perspective, the game only enhanced two of the stories coming out of the preseason: the offense is solid, but the team is going to struggle with pass defense.
For senior and All-American linebacker Mike Hendrick, it seemed as if nothing could go right for the snake-bitten Prairie Fire.
“We had breakdowns in the defense, then when we played the right defense they found the gaps in our zone,” he said. “It’s like once again, Knox came out on the wrong end.”
Head coach Chad Eisele further understands the pressing need to figure out the secondary issue.
“We are making some adjustments to some personnel now and making adjustments to our techniques and our plays,” he said. “We are starting that this week and will move forward from there.”
The adjustments are a-work in-progress according to Eisele, but the game film from Eureka may be spreading around the Midwest Conference.
“We play most of the spread teams later in the season, which gives us some time to work on it,” Hendrick said. “But even with [some of the run-based teams], they maybe will come out with the pass after seeing this game. So we have to be prepared starting now.”
Durley’s record day and the secondary concerns overshadow what was in many ways a historic performance for Knox’s own offense. According to junior quarterback Drew Diaz, the game plan could not have worked any better.
“We had a really good scheme going into the game,” he said. “Everything we had prepared for was there for us to take advantage of.”
Knox compiled 469 yards of offense, 279 of which came on the ground.
“We’ve improved from last year, and improved last year from the year before that. Our offensive line continues to get better every game,” Diaz said.
It was not a perfect day for the Knox offense, which was held to back-to-back three and outs, giving Durley and Eureka more opportunities to come back, something not lost on Diaz.
“I feel like we should have finished [the game],” he said. “It’s one thing for our offense to score 55 points; it’s another thing to be held without a first down in the last two drives.”
Still, the production was undeniable, and the Prairie Fire should still be able to compete, even if it means an offensive shootout every week.
“I would not be surprised if we put up 30 or 40 points a game, and I have confidence in saying we have one of the best offenses in the league,” Diaz said.
If that is the case, then scoreboards will be lighting up across the Midwest Conference throughout the fall.