Football Team's Comeback Bid Falls Short at Grinnell

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The Prairie Fire and Grinnell College played even for the first half, but the Pioneers found the end zone on four straight trips then held on to win 43-35 in Grinnell, Iowa.

Knox (0-6, 0-5 MWC) scored the first TD of the game on a 3-yard run by sophomore Derek Mortensen (Crystal Lake, Illinois) with 6:15 left in the opening quarter.

Grinnell (4-2, 3-2 MWC) tied the game at 7-7 with no time left in the first quarter when Mike McCabe hit Jason Peters with a 24-yard scoring pass.

The teams went back-and-forth in the second quarter.  Knox grabbed a 14-7 lead on a 6-yard pass from sophomore Drew Diaz (Niles, Illinois) to junior wideout Gabe Ayers (Hanna City, Illinois) with 5:53 to play in the first half.

Grinnell answered with a 29-yard scoring pass from McCabe to Robert Seer with 2:32 to play that sent the game tied at 14-14 at halftime.

The Fire took its last lead of the game, 21-14, at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter on a Diaz touchdown pass to senior Clarke Cuthbert (Oak Park, Illinois).

From there, Grinnell rolled off four straight scores between 3:06 to go in the third quarter to 9:21 to play in the game to turn the tide and lead 43-20.  Two of the touchdowns were receptions by Seer (7, 39 yards) and the other two were runs by Cody Weber (1, 12 yards).

Knox added two more touchdowns, its last with 50 seconds left in the game on a 1-yard run by Diaz to get his team within eight points at 43-35.  Prior to that TD, Diaz connected with sophomore tight end Neal Moon (Kahoka, Missouri) on a 24-yard scoring play -- Moon's first touchdown of the season -- with 6:26 to play in the fourth quarter.

Grinnell outgained the Prairie Fire in total yardage 430-306.  Knox passed for 201 yards and ran for 105 while the Pioneers threw for 313 and rushed for 117.

Diaz completed 17-of-33 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.  He also threw three interceptions.  Mortensen led the ground game with 21 carries for 58 yards and a score.  Diaz had 11 carries for 13 yards and a TD.

Armstrong led the Knox receiving corps with five grabs for 69 yards and a touchdown.  Cuthbert added four catches for 54 yards and a score.

McCabe, among the top quarterbacks in the Midwest Conference, was 13-of-19 passing for 219 yards and four TDs.  Logan Granera caught seven passes for 101 yards for the Pioneers, but it was Seer's six catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns that hurt Knox the most.  Weber carried the football 19 times for 68 yards and two scores.

Defensively, junior linebacker Mike Hendrick (Smithton, Illinois) had another big game for Knox.  He had a team-high 11 tackles, including five that resulted in losses of 31 yards.  Hendrick also recorded three quarterback sacks and intercepted a pass.  The Prairie Fire had five sacks on the afternoon.