Interceptions Turn Tide in Macalester Scots 46-19 Victory Over Knox
It is amazing how one statistic can affect a football game so much. That was the case on Saturday as the Knox College Prairie Fire dominated virtually every category, including outgaining the Macalester Scots by nearly a 100 yards on offense, but the difference was two key interceptions near the end of the first half that directly led to 12 Scots points, turning the tide of the contest.
The Prairie Fire came out of the locker room fired up. They received the opening kickoff and moved 61-yards in 11-plays as quarterback Matt McCaffrey found Matthew Hemmingsen for the 14-yard touchdown to cap off the drive. The possession took 5:28 off of the clock, and McCaffrey was on fire, completing six of his seven pass attempts, including 28-yarder to receiver Illir Emini, who looked nearly unstoppable in the first half.
The Scots were forced into a three-and-out in their first series of the game, and Knox had the chance to put Macalester on the canvas. The Prairie Fire began from their own 36 and moved to the Macalester College 10 in just four plays. From there it was first and goal, and after moving to the Scots two on the first two plays, Chance Carnahan and AJ Imholte stopped Nick Edlund for no gain and third down to set up a fourth down and goal. Coach Damon Tomeo decided to go for that knockout blow, as Edlund moved left looking to find a seam into the end zone. Elliot Tanin and Fabian Arrizon were having none of it however. The duo swooped in and knocked Edlund down for no gain, giving their offense the ball at their own two.
Starting deep in their own territory, the Macalester offense impressively moved the ball in huge chunks. Each of the first four plays of the drive went for 15-yards, as QB Christian Adams pass to Garrett Eichhorn on the first play went for 15. Then Adams kept the ball and moved to his left, rushing for 15 more before finally being tackled. Zandy Stowell and Jeremy Stephan carried the ball on the next two plays, each gaining 15, with the last carry moving the ball to the Knox 38. Adams next pass to Eichhorn was caught for 13-yards, but the drive looked like it would stall when the Scots gained just five yards on their next two plays. That set up third and five at the Prairie Fire 20. Adams went back to pass and began moving to his right. It looked like he might tuck it and run but, instead, he found receiver Victor Bordo open down the sideline and hit him for the touchdown.
The Prairie Fire responded right away. McCaffrey hit Emini for 31-yards to start the drive and then Jared Zanger ran 22-yards on the next play. One play later McCaffrey found Emini again, this time for 15-yards and the score. The extra-point was blocked making the score 13-7.
The Knox defense came up big on the Scots next possession, forcing a three-and-out and giving their offense the ball back at their own 36. McCaffrey completed his first pass for 11-yards and a first down, but two plays later his pass was tipped and picked off by Tanin, who raced 36-yards before being tackled at the Prairie Fire four. Four plays later Stowell scored and the game was tied.
For the next nearly eight minutes neither team was able to put points on the board. The Prairie Fire missed a 51-yard field goal attempt, but that was about all the offense seen. With 2:05 left in the first half the home team had one more chance to get back in front. McCaffrey went back to pass from his own 21-yard-line, but his pass was tipped and Forest Redlin intercepted the ball, returning it to the Knox one. On the next play Stowell went in to give Macalester the 19-13 lead.
The Scots had been dominated in terms of numbers, but were leading the game because of the two key turnovers. Plus they got the ball first to start the second half. They would take full advantage of that.
Bordo returned the kickoff to the Scots 40. The first three plays generated 12-yards and a first down, and Macalester sent in speedster Alec Beatty at quarterback. He went left and found a hole, then raced 48-yards, untouched, for the score. That made it 25-13.
On Knox’s next possession they were forced to punt after gaining just four-yards, but that was only part of the misery they were about to face. Wes Koerber’s punt was blocked by Bradley Cox, who recovered the ball and scored to make it 32-13. It was the second time this season that the Scots’ special teams has blocked a punt and scored on the play.
The Prairie Fire were forced to punt on their next possession, but their special teams unit came up with a big play, recovering a fumble on the punt return. Eight plays later Zanger scored from seven-yards out to make it 32-19.
That would be as close as Knox College would get. The Scots scored on each of their next two possessions, and did it in quick fashion. Stowell capped off the first score by racing 48-yards for his third touchdown of the season. He was not touched as he burst through a hole in the line before taking it to the house.
On the ensuing kickoff the Prairie Fire fumbled and the ball was recovered by Arrizon at the Knox 10. One play later Liam Peebles scored to make it 46-13. That would be the final score.
Nearly every statistical category was dominated by Knox. They gained 21 first downs to Macalester’s 13 and outgained them on offense 405-yards to 308. Passing the Prairie Fire had 225-yards to the Scots 73, but the Scots gained 235-yards on the ground and Knox seemed to have no answer on how to stop Stowell and company.
Stowell finished the day with 82-yards and 3 scores on 9-carries. Beatty had 5-carries for 55-yards and a TD. Jacob Jones added 49 more on just 3-carries, and Stephan had 34-yards.
McCaffrey was 19-27 passing for 218-yards and 2 touchdowns. He also gained 80-yards on the ground. Emini had 7-catches for 133-yards, but over 120 of that came in the first half.
Redlin led the Scots in tackles with 11 and Imholte had 10.
By Robert Pannier