Knox’s 48-6 loss to Carroll University last Saturday signaled a rather large roadblock to the path of improvement for a team that has lost 15 consecutive conference games and 17 overall.
“We did some good things against Eureka in the first game, then we played quite a bit better against St. Norbert in week two, but this week I think we took a step backwards,” head coach Chad Eisele said. “We did not consistently move the football and defensively we gave up big play while also failing to turn the ball over.”
One of the more pressing issues to come out from the game against Carroll was the inefficiency of the pass game.
The quarterback duo of freshman Luke Oosterban and junior Drew Diaz combined for a season low in competition percentage and passing yards while tossing three interceptions.
The dual quarterback system Knox currently employs has been a part of the gameplan from week one, but the combination of Diaz’s shoulder injury and inconsistent play have left the roles switched.
“We have a junior quarterback who has started a lot of games for us but has shown some inconsistency at times. And we have a freshman quarterback who is a freshman quarterback,” Eisele said.
As of this week Oosterban is listed as the starter, but Eisele states the offense will still open the second quarter with Diaz.
“Both quarterbacks need to be ready to play. It’s the type of offense that can certainly be a two quarterback system,” he said.
One of the few positives to come out of the Carroll game was the play of senior defensive lineman Lloyd Scott. Scott tallied three tackles for a loss, a sack and even broke up two passes at the line of scrimmage.
“I told [Scott] it was the best game he has played in four years at Knox, but I also said don’t make it the last time I say that,” Eisle said.
In addition to Scott, who is currently tied for third in the Midwest Conference with four tackles for a loss this season, Knox is getting a strong start to the season from junior Steve Bora. Bora is second in the MWC in the same category and has repeatedly stuffed the opponents run game.
Overall, Knox currently sits fourth in the MWC in run defense, surrendering 135.5 yards a game on the ground.
“We feel our defensive line is as athletic as anybody elses, and we expect our frontline to lead us defensively,” Eisele said.
Success on the grid iron depends on two things: keeping control of the ball and taking it away from the opponent. Coach Eisele notes that Knox did not do either particularly well against Carroll.
“We need to get back to making progress, moving forward and making less mistakes on offense and causing more turnovers defensively,” he said. “We have seven games left, and we believe there isn’t anybody on our schedule we can’t beat. But if we play like we did on Saturday, we are going to struggle every week.”
Knox has a turnover margin of negative two after the first three games, and is last in the conference in third down defense, allowing opponents to convert at a rate of 62.2 percent.
The Prairie Fire will need to fix the issues on the road, as they hit the road in each of the next two weeks. First up is Lake Forest on Sept. 22 before driving into Wisconsin to play Ripon on Sept. 29.