By Hayes Gardner
Typically, when a football team outgains their opponent 278-270 yards, one would expect a victory, or at least a close game. That wasn’t the case this past Saturday, September 15, when Grinnell fell to Lake Forest College, 33-7. The downfalls of the Pioneers, who dropped to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the Midwest Conference, were miscues holding on to the football and penalties. Seven times, the Pioneers turned the ball over, and yellow flags became the norm as Grinnell was penalized 11 times. The Foresters proved to be a foil to Grinnell, not turning the ball over once and getting penalized only six times.
“You’ve got a first-year QB (Sam Poulos), so you’re expecting to have some turnovers there, and he’s actually done a very good job of not turning it over up to this point,” head coach Jeff Pedersen ’02 said.
Poulos was intercepted twice, but the bigger problem was fumbles, as the Pioneers fumbled five times, losing them all.
“The fumbles are more disturbing, more troubling,” Pedersen said.
The positives from this weekend are that the Pioneers were able to move the ball efficiently when they held onto it.
“They never really stopped us, but obviously, if we’re giving the ball back to them or we’re getting penalized, taking away first downs, it’s going to kill us every time,” Pedersen said.
In order to improve, the Pioneers believe they need to work on the fundamentals.
“It comes down to the little things and that’s what Coach P preaches day in and day out. It’s ball security, it’s good snaps on my part, it’s the O-line executing their assignments and staying on those blocks just a second or a half a second longer,” center Quinn Rosenthal ’14 said.
Defensively, the Pioneers believe they can improve on their fundamentals as well.
“It seemed like there was one guy out of position every play—and not a specific guy every play—but just one of the 11 slightly out of position led to a little crease and them getting the first down or getting the touchdown,” defensive lineman Tom Brinkman ’13 said.
Though the Foresters, who improved to 2-0 in conference and 2-1 overall, put up 33 points, the defense had a solid game. Two of the five touchdowns that Lake Forest scored came on returns after interceptions, meaning the defense only allowed three touchdowns, including only one through the first three quarters. However, fatigue could have been a factor as Lake Forest crossed the goal line twice in the fourth quarter.
“The defense was on the field a lot of the time,” Brinkman said.
Turnovers prematurely ended many drives, resulting in the defense being on the field for over 33 minutes. This, paired with a small roster, caused the Pioneer defenders to play quite a bit.
“They had 90 guys dressed on Saturday, we had … 41 dressed on Saturday,” Pedersen said.
Despite this, the Pioneers feel confident in their ability to match up against teams who have over twice as many players as them.
“It is tough, but I don’t think it fazes us so much,” Rosenthal said.
“We still believe we should be in shape well enough to go the whole game,” Brinkman said.
Offensively for the Pioneers, Sam Poulos ’16 completed 15 of 27 passes for one touchdown. Cody Weber ’13 caught nine of those passes for 124 yards. TJ Schaid ’13 added 15 carries for 54 yards and also a receiving touchdown. Defensively, David Ternes ’15 shined, leading all defenders with 14 tackles. Brinkman and Colton Feller ’14 tallied 10 and nine tackles, respectively.
“[Ternes] is obviously all over the place, which is awesome to see. He prepares himself very well every week and we know that he’s going to be ready to go on Saturday, which is what we want,” Brinkman said.
This Saturday, the Pioneers hit the road to face the Beloit College Buccaneers, a team who is also 0-3.
“It’ll be our first road game, so maybe that’ll get us out of a little bit of a funk,” Rosenthal said.
Still in pursuit of their first win, the Pioneers know what they have to do to defeat Beloit.
“[The game plan] is the same recipe that we’ve been talking about, which is frustrating because we haven’t executed it yet,” Pedersen said.
This game plan consists of holding on to the ball and forcing turnovers, as well as making a pivotal play on special teams.
“Our biggest key is flying around on defense … one big part is we want to get some turnovers as a defense. We played fairly well this weekend, but we just didn’t get the turnovers we would like to get,” Brinkman said.
The Pioneers look forward to facing Beloit and then hosting Monmouth College on October 6.
“We’ve been so close all three of the games and we haven’t quite gotten there,” Rosenthal said.
“We’ve obviously played well at some stints, we just haven’t put it all together,” Brinkman said.