Football breaks Fall Festival losing streak

Philip Roy

The Pioneers from Grinnell College visited the Banta Bowl on a very wet Saturday last weekend. Both teams struggled with the conditions offensively through the first quarter and were each only able to convert first downs in their last possessions of the period. Lawrence committed their second turnover of the game on a promising drive, fumbling on the Grinnell 1-yard line to remain scoreless for the first quarter. The Vikings did manage to score early in the second quarter on a 43-yard run by junior RB Adrell Bullock. The lead was short-lived as Grinnell blocked a punt deep in LU territory and ran in the remaining 5 yards on the next play. The teams exchanged blows late in the half with QB Eric Aspenson connecting with WR Dom Lark and Grinnell scoring on the very next drive. P.J. Hilbert tied a school record, blocking his third kick of the season to give the Vikings the slim 1-point lead at the half.
Lawrence’s turnover woes continued into the second half as they fumbled away their first two possessions. They were punished on the second occasion, giving Grinnell a 19-14 lead. Alarmingly, the Vikings went on to turn over the ball on each of their next drives of the quarter but gritty play by the Lawrence defense kept Grinnell from extending their lead. The offense did a much better job of holding on to the football in the closing quarter and took their first two drives in for scores without allowing the Pioneers any points. Nick Korn held on to his fourth touchdown of the season and Aspenson ran in for his seventh as the Vikings took the scoreline to 27-19, where it would remain until the clock ran out.
The win gave the Vikings their first homecoming (now part of the overarching Fall Festival theme) victory since 1986. In the process, however, the Vikings turned the ball over more times than they had since 1987. The offense nevertheless managed to pile on over 400 yards including a season-high 317 rushing yards. Aspenson and Junior RB Craig Ebert each had over 100 rushing yards with Bullock close behind with 90. Aspenson, who had been out with a knee injury for a couple of weeks, returned to the helm of the offense early in the first quarter. The junior threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran in for another score to secure the win.
The Lawrence defense continued to impress as they shut down the Grinnell offense, restricting them to just 186 yards. Freshman Marshall McGhee stood out with two interceptions. Andrew Schneider led the team with 10 tackles, with five other Vikings piling on 7 apiece. Although the wet conditions contributed to the obscene amount of turnovers, the Vikings will need to limit those errors, possibly in similar weather, as they take on Lake Forest and Illinois College to end their season. Lake Forest, who also boasts a tough defensive unit, will visit the bowl this Saturday. Coming off a loss to Carroll, whom Lawrence defeated earlier this season, the Foresters are in the middle of the conference rankings – a place that the Vikings would like to occupy as the season comes to an end. 1:30 on Saturday at the Banta Bowl. See you there.

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