The Beloit College football team scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to secure a comeback, 23-20, win over Knox College in their home opener at Strong Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The nail-biter got off to an exciting start as the Bucs scored in their opening drive. Knox won the toss and chose to defer putting the ball in the hands of the Beloit offense to start the game. Opening the drive from their 29-yard line, senior running back Joey Werner was tapped for the first four plays of the game taking the Bucs up to their own 45. On third and six, senior quarterback Erick Mitchell connected with junior wide receiver Tyler Korous for 10 yards and the BC first down. Mitchell found Korous again on the next play for six more before Werner took the handoff on three of the next four plays to take the Bucs down to the Knox 26. Mitchell took the snap, surveyed the field and found first-year wide receiver Juan Reyes for a 26-yard strike and the early touchdown. Senior kicker Andy Berlin made it 7-0 with the extra point.
The Buccaneer defense put a stop to the Prairie Fire’s first offensive opportunity as sophomore defensive back Patrick Nicolas forced fumble on Knox’s workhorse Braeden Westfall. Nicolas recovered at the Beloit 44.
A three-and-out for the Buc offense was followed by a 33-yard punt from Berlin that pinned Knox inside the 20. Two short gains gave way to a 79-yard connection from Jacob Amaro to Kobe Shutter for a Prairie Fire touchdown. The extra point was unsuccessful and Beloit held the 7-6 advantage through the end of the first quarter.
Midway through the second, Knox took the lead after opening the drive with good field position courtesy of a few penalties. The Prairie Fire need just five plays to find the endzone driving 55 yards in 2:20 to take the lead 13-7. That score would hold through intermission.
Knox struck again in the third quarter this time driving 57 yards in 10 plays, nine of those in the hands of tailback Westfall, to take a 20-7 lead.
With less than 16 minutes left to play, the Bucs began their comeback. Beloit continued their drive into the fourth quarter showcasing efficiency with an 85-yard drive in ten plays that took just 3:10 off the clock. Werner bolstered the drive with a hard-nosed 20-yard run to take Beloit down to the Knox 36. Mitchell follow with three straight completions. The first to Korous was good for nine yards. The second went to senior wide receiver Ethan Conley for 13-yards and the scoring toss was a 14-yard connection with Korous to pull the Bucs to within a touchdown of the Prairie Fire. An unsuccessful extra point kept the score at 20-13.
The Buccaneer defense forced a three-and-out and gave the ball back to their surging offense. Korous swayed the momentum even further in Beloit’s favor opening the drive with a 52-yard reception taking the ball all the way to the Knox 13. Werner got the call on the next play rumbling 10-yards down to the three-yard line. After another Werner rush, this time for a yard, Mitchell went back to his favorite target for the day and hit Korous for the two-yard touchdown strike. Berlin’s point after was good knotting the game 20-20.
The defense continued their stellar play forcing another three-and-out for the Knox offense. Beloit’s offense rolled into field goal range driving 51 yards in nine plays but Berlin’s attempt sailed wide left leaving 3:45 left on the clock.
Penalties proved costly for the Prairie Fire in their next drive. Pinned inside their own ten, Knox punter Garrete Rau took the snap in his own endzone. The 45-yard boot was returned four yards by Wachal to midfield.
The Bucs had 1:45 to at least get back into field goal range. Mitchell found Conley for a 12-yard gain to open the drive. On the keeper, Mitchell took it himself for four yards before going back to the air, and back to Conley for another five-yard strike. Buccaneer Head Coach Seth Duerr called the quick timeout with 57 seconds remaining. Werner took the handoff out of the timeout driving for a hard-fought three yards. On second and seven, Mitchell was forced out of the pocket and scampered for three yards before heading out of bounds at the Knox 23. An incomplete pass made in third and seven. Mitchell kept the third-down play alive gaining four yards before being forced out of bounds. The Bucs sent out their field goal unit, this time Reyes lined up to take the kick. The snap was good, the hold was good and Reyes nailed the 37-yard field goal to give Beloit a 23-20 lead with just 22 seconds on the clock.
The Prairie Fire gained seven to open their final drive of the game on a pass play but the Bucs defense stiffened and the next two pass attempts fell incomplete. Knox took a timeout with just five ticks of the clock left. Out of the timeout, Prairie Fire quarterback Amaro was pressured, tried to get out of the pocket but junior defensive lineman chased him down for the sack to secure the 23-20 Buccaneer win.
Werner posted his second straight game with 30 or more carries and more than 100 yards on the ground. He ran for 133 yards on 30 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt in the game.
Mitchell was 20-34 for 236 yards with two interceptions and three touchdowns. The favorite target for the day, Korous snagged 10 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Nicolas led the Bucs with 11 tackles including five solo, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. First-year defensive back Silas Say added 10 tackles, nine solo and one assisted.
The Buccaneers have a week off before returning to the gridiron for the annual Homecoming game Saturday, September 22. Beloit will host Cornell College for a 1 p.m. kickoff.