Football struggles as season heats up

By Jordan Atkins

The Lawrence University (Vikings) Football team suffered its third consecutive loss last Saturday, Oct. 4, at the hands of the Grinnell College Pioneers. Lawrence’s second half comeback fell short after falling behind by two touchdowns at halftime. The Vikings gained more yards, produced more first downs, committed fewer penalties and converted more of their red zone opportunities than the Pioneers (1-3), but ultimately scored less points.

Freshman quarterback Ryan Butterfield took the majority of the snaps for the road team. Butterfield primarily played the role of distributor as the Vikings’ ground attack led the way. This included Butterfield calling his own number on several occasions. Not accounting for sacks, Butterfield ran for 88 yards on just 10 carries.

Sophomore running back Donnel Haley and freshman Terrence Simon also contributed to the Vikes’ ground attack in a major way, scoring a touchdown apiece. Simon’s touchdown run of 66 yards was the longest rushing play for the Vikings since Tyler Mazur’s 80-yard run in 2010.

Sophomore Jacob Berman led the team in receptions and receiving yards this week. Lawrence’s major offensive contributions were rounded out by two successful field goal attempts by junior kicker Patrick O’Mahoney. After Saturday, O’Mahoney now leads the Midwest Conference in field goals made.

In the end, Grinnell’s balanced attack was enough to outpace the Vikings (1-4) despite the Pioneers being held scoreless in the second half. The game marked the halfway point for the season as well as the end of non-divisional games for the remainder of the regular season.

The Vikings will now try to take advantage of a much needed bye week. “We are going to get back to basics in practice this week. I am excited,” said sophomore wide outside receiver Cole Erickson. “We have been improving throughout the season. We need to keep chipping away.”

The Vikings have been characterized by their relentlessness all season. Through five games, the team has only allowed seven fourth-quarter points. “We have not given up once [when] other teams start to let up early,” Erickson said.

The Vikes also have several players suffering from injuries. Starting junior wide receiver Trevor Spina is likely done for the season with a shoulder injury. Freshman linebacker Hunter Adams is also out long-term with a leg injury. The Vikes are waiting for the return of senior Josh Mosley and freshman Cam Boerm, both of whom hope to return from knee injuries in time for the Oct. 17 contest again Carroll University. The roster is undersized as is, so the Vikings will need as many healthy players as possible, as it takes on its competition in the North division of the Midwest Conference in the coming weeks.

Butterfield and fellow freshman quarterback Kemani Pittman are expected to continue to split time under center. “We have great leadership at quarterback,” said junior offensive lineman and team captain Jackson Straughan. “[Butterfield] is a quick dude and Kemani has a strong arm.”

The team has seen strong leadership from Straughan this season. Straughan leads a depleted offensive line as the five starters play nearly every snap. “I love what we’re doing with the fly offense,” Straughan said of the new offensive scheme implemented by a coaching staff that is all in its first season at Lawrence. “It’s high tempo and [Offensive Coordinator Mark] Speckman is doing a great job. Recruitment is going to be [a] huge focus for the offseason,” Straughan added.

While starting games fast and limiting penalties have been a struggle to this point for LU, maintaining a positive attitude has not been. “I am proud of our guys,” Erickson said. Straughan added that as a leader, he tries to stay calm and collected no matter what. “I’m going out there, play by play, doing my best to help the team get a win.” Lawrence’s next opportunity for a victory will be against Carroll on Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. in the Banta Bowl.