The Knox College Prairie Fire Men’s football team (0-5, 0-4 MWC) once again faded in the second half of a tough defeat, this time falling to the Ripon Red Hawks 42-17.
After a scoreless first quarter, the teams exploded for 38 points in the second. Ripon scored on the opening play of the second frame, but Knox responded by driving 66 yards before junior Phil Tallman kicked a 26 yard field goal to make it 7-3.
After another Ripon score, Knox answered with a 70 yard drive that ended in a 42 yard touchdown pass from freshmen quarterback Luke Oosterbaan to freshman wide receiver Ilir Emini.
“We didn’t let down in the first half,” Emini said. “Luke is my quarterback and I believe in him; he has a lot of heart.”
On Tallman’s ensuing kickoff for the Prairie Fire, senior defensive back Nathan Williams recovered a fumble to give the Fire another chance to score. Two plays later, junior running back Derek Mortensen scored on a four yard run to give Knox a 17-14 lead.
The turning point came when Knox could not keep Ripon out of the end zone before the end of the half. The Red Hawks scored with five seconds remaining in the quarter to recapture the lead 21-17.
The Red Hawks intercepted an Oosterbaan pass intended for Emini on Knox’s first possession of the second half. The turnover led to a scoring drive by the Ripon offense, the first of three consecutive Ripon would have to close out the game.
“We stopped them and were able to cause several punting situations which helped get our offense rolling early in the game. Unfortunately, we did not keep up [the effort] throughout the [rest] of the game,” senior defensive tackle Lloyd Scott said.
On offense, Knox was similarly disappointing in the second half, compiling just 109 yards of offense while failing to put any points on the board.
“Unfortunately, what ended up happening was basically a repeat of the Lake Forest game. We couldn’t seem to find the end zone on offense and couldn’t seem to turn the ball over on defense.” senior Mike Schroeder said. “The bottom line is, [the defense] spent way too much time out on the field.”
This weekend, Knox stays home to play against Beloit (0-5, 0-4 MWC), a team also searching for their first win of the season. But despite Beloit’s weak record, head coach Chad Eisele knows to never overlook an opponent.
“We’re going to have to go out and play our best game to come out with a victory in the bowl on Saturday,” he said.