By Claire Weidman
This past Saturday, Grinnell football opened their season with a non-conference matchup against Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. The Pioneers fell to a 20-0 halftime deficit, eventually losing 29-10.
Despite the loss, there were some very impressive performances by a few key players. Quarterback Sam Poulos ’16 now holds the second-place school record for completed passes in a single game after completing 36 of 59 passes on Saturday. Jacob Meixler ’15 caught a total of 12 passes for 105 yards and Kevin Hwang ’14 had a notable defensive performance with 10 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
According to head coach Jeff Pedersen ’02, the main reason for the loss was that the men struggled to put together scoring drives to answer Carleton’s offensive success.
“[The] red zone was not kind to us on offense. One time we would go for it and not get it, one time we would miss a field goal, one time we would fumble, one time it was an interception. That’s something that was a problem going back to last year, so we’re continually trying to figure out ways we can be better in the red zone,” Pedersen said.
Kicker Graham Fisher ’16 felt the team’s game performance did not accurately reflect what the Pioneers have been working towards in practices these past few weeks.
“We’re using a new offense this year. It’s more up-tempo to try to keep [the opposing team] off guard, but it didn’t quite go that way,” Fisher said.
The Pioneers still have high hopes for their performance in conference play. Pedersen is confident that the first-year class will contribute to future success.
“[The first-year class] is pretty talented. We started two first-year offensive lineman, we played another first-year running back quite a bit and we played two or three first-years on defense, as well,” Pedersen said.
Meixler is equally hopeful for the team’s success.
“I think the offense is miles ahead of last year and we can do many different things with different guys this year. Also, we have more depth at each position this year, especially at offensive line. That’s been a great improvement,” Meixler said.
In contrast to the previous season, the team has also managed to avoid any very serious injuries thus far. This provides a greater chance at success with the option for variability in starting lineups.
Fisher believes the team will continue to improve with some hard work in practice in upcoming weeks.
“We’re just looking to build off of last year, trying to get better. Last year we were two and eight, which obviously isn’t great, but there were some bright spots. We’re going to get better every week, just fine-tuning stuff,” Fisher said.
The Pioneers begin conference play this Saturday, Sept. 14, at 1 p.m. against Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois. The Blueboys destroyed Hanover College 49-13 last week and were ranked second in the Midwest Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, while the Pioneers received a ranking of eighth. However, Meixler believes the team is up for the challenge.
“Illinois College will be our toughest game all year, so we need to have a good week of practice and play our best football to come out with a win. We do expect to win because I think we have the pieces [we need],” Meixler said.
The first home game will take place on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. versus Beloit College. Coach Pedersen is excited about having the chance to play at home during Family Weekend.
“[Family Weekend is] a big weekend for everybody, so we’re hoping to have a huge turnout at the game. Just hoping to get good support for all our teams,” Pedersen said.