The Lords football team gave the 8-1 DePauw University Tigers a run for their money on Saturday, losing by a final score of 37-32. Holding the Tigers’ third-string quarterback to only 37 points and 267 passing yards was a crucial factor in the Lords’ near-upset.
The game was tight throughout the first half, as the teams went into the locker room with the Tigers ahead 31-19 after a late touchdown.
Coming out of the half, the Lords’ defense stepped up and kept the Tigers offense off the field. After a Brandon Byrd ’18 touchdown reception to open the third quarter, the Lords’ defense was able to produce five stops in a row against the high-powered Tiger offense. This included a forced fumble by Michael Picone ’21 that was recovered in the end zone by Jacob LaPoint ’18 for a Lords touchdown to take a 32-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
For the third time this season, the Lords found themselves up in the fourth quarter. This time, the Lords had a chance for a definitive victory when they got the ball 31 yards away from the end zone after the defense forced a punt from the DePauw one-yard line. But on fourth-and-4 from the DePauw 25, Lords quarterback Thomas Merkle’s ’20 pass was intercepted in the end zone, giving the Tigers the ball on their own 20-yard line.
Two plays later, Dustin Clute ’21 forced Tigers quarterback Jake Lasky to fumble, with the Tigers recovering their own fumble for a four-yard loss. The play would have forced the Tigers to convert on a third-and-14 to continue the drive, but instead the referee found that the Lords were too aggressive in the pile and called them for unnecessary roughness.
On the following play, the Lords’ defensive line once again pressured Lasky, hitting him as he threw and forcing the ball to wobble in the air. After the jump ball fell to the ground, the back judge called the Lords’ secondary for questionable pass interference. While any play in a football game is up for interpretation, the way the ball left Lasky’s hand gave the impression of a ball that was tipped by the defense during the release, negating the referee’s ability to call pass interference.
After the two consecutive penalties that gave DePauw’s offense a combined 30 yards, the Lords still forced the Tigers to fourth down and six yards to go from the Kenyon 35 yard line. Lasky then dropped back and found wide receiver Andy Hunt in the end zone for the Tigers’ only points of the second half.
On the Lords’ next possession, they drove down to the DePauw 23-yard line before being stopped on fourth-and-1 with an extremely close spot. The Lords’ defense then forced the Tigers to punt with three-and-a-half minutes to go when wide receiver Ian Bell ’18 muffed the punt on an attempted fair catch at the Kenyon 25-yard line that was recovered by DePauw’s Chandler Nicholson.
“Obviously we would have liked to have the ball on the 35-yard line, decent field position to start a drive with three and a half to play. Those are the situations you live for,” Merkle said.
The Lords were able to get the ball back with less than a minute remaining and no timeouts, and could not sustain an offensive attack as time ran out and the Lords lost their 15th-straight game. “I would say it was proud frustration,” Merkle said after the loss. “I was proud of how everyone played … but going into the fourth quarter with a taste of a win in your mouth and having it taken away from you, you never really get past that.”
Ian Robertson ’19 had a career day for the Lords with 243 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The outstanding performance puts Robertson only under Chris Myers’ ’71 279-yard performance against Centre College in 1969, on his way to becoming the first Associated Press All-American from Kenyon. With 976 yards on the season, Robertson will need 16 more yards to break into the College’s all-time top 10 receiving season, and 167 to finish top five.
The final game of the season will take place against the Denison University Big Red as the Lords on Nov. 11 as they hope to avoid their first winless season since 2011.