Momentum-killing turnovers and inefficient pass defense caused the Lords football team to lose their first game against the Sewanee: University of the South Tigers, 45-20.
Kenyon scored first taking a 7-0 led by methodically marching down the field in a drive capped off with a four-yard touchdown run by Nat Henry ’20. Then the Lords had their first in a series of unfortunate events, as Henry fumbled on the Sewanee two-yard line, and a Sewanee defender recovered the ball and took it all the way to the Lords’ end zone. This first of six Lords turnovers led to 17 straight points for the Tigers, and after exchanging two touchdowns late, the Lords trailed 24-14.
In the third quarter, the Lords lost whatever previous momentum they had. While neither they nor the Tigers scored in the quarter, the Lords missed several opportunities, with two of their drives ending in red zone interceptions. “The second half, we just had some mental mistakes,” said quarterback Thomas Merkle ’20, who threw all five of his interceptions in the second half. “We turned the ball over and we let the momentum shift in their direction.”
The fourth quarter continued the downward spiral for the Lords, as Merkle threw three more interceptions, which led to three more Sewanee touchdowns. As the clock wound down, the Lords finally scored a late second half touchdown to make the final score 45-20.
One of the worst parts of this game for the Lords was their efficiency in the red zone. Although the Lords possessed the ball for 15 minutes more than Sewanee did, they failed to score in three of their six trips to the red zone. Of the Lords’ six turnovers, three were in the red zone, and five were in Sewanee’s territory. Conversely, the Tigers capitalized on their opportunities in the Lords’ red zone, scoring all four times they reached the Lords’ 20 yard line. This disparity proved to be the real difference in the game as the Lords were near-equal with the Tigers in almost every other major statistical category except turnovers.
The Lords also gave up big plays down the field to survive against an offense which could to capitalize on scoring opportunities quickly. The Lords only gave up 4.2 yards per rushing attempt the entire game, but ended up losing the battle in the air badly, giving up an average of 10.3 yards every time they dropped back to pass, and 19.4 yards for every completion.
In terms of individual performances, wide receiver Ian Bell ’19 stood out. He had a team high 17 receptions and 156 yards as Merkle passed to him 24 times. “He’s a big body to throw to in the corner, and the cornerback that he was going up against was maybe 5’8” at best,” Merkle said of the 6’1”, 196-pound wideout. “He did a really good job of getting himself open.”
The Lords’ defensive player of the game was linebacker Sam Dickey ’20. He finished the game with eight tackles in his first-ever collegiate start. “Coming in as a first-time starter, no one really knows what to expect of you, and I’ve always known to myself that I’m a good football player, but it feels good that now my teammates back me and they know what I can do,” Dickey said of his debut.
Next week, the Lords will play at Oberlin College in their first North Coast Athletic Conference game of the season. Merkle is looking forward to the challenge. “Hopefully we have a result like we had last year,” he said, referring to their win against the Yeoman. “We consider ourselves big rivals with them,” Dickey said. “They’re the most similar team to us in the conference, so we really don’t like them.”