Kenyon’s 21-point comeback effort ultimately fell short against Sewanee; nonetheless, the Lords showed that Kenyon fans have a lot to look forward to as their team enters NCAC play next week against Oberlin.
Kenyon’s offense is going to be fun to watch this season.
During their three consecutive scoring drives in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the Kenyon offense showed us its ability to both respond to adversity and make big-time plays. After Sewanee tacked on a third TD to make it 21-0, the Kenyon offense exhibited great composure and resolve to respond in tremendous fashion via a 67-yard TD bomb from Sr. Co-Captain QB #13 Jake Bates to Jr. WR #7 Brian Hunca. The whole team fed off of the energy which Hunca’s TD created (1st Law of Thermodynamics aside), and both the Kenyon offense and the Kenyon defense played with confidence and purpose in the 2nd half. In addition to giving the Lords new life, Bates’ TD pass to Hunca was his longest since hitting then-Fr. WR. #11 Jibri McLean for a 65-yard passing TD against Ohio Wesleyan in 2013. Needless to say, that sort of playmaking was simply not prevalent last season, and it was great to see the Lords flex their offensive muscles against Sewanee.
Despite losing RB Brandon January ’15, it looks like the Kenyon backfield will be just fine this season.
Though the Lords did return many of its starters from last season, one of the biggest losses was RB Brandon January ’15, who finished his Kenyon career 8th all-time in rushing yards. Fortunately, Sr. Co-Captain FB #3 Blake Calcei (10 rushes for 105 yards and 1 TD) and Sr. RB #21 Casey Beaudouin (9 rushes for 55 yards) had a strong showing on Saturday, which is a very positive indication that Kenyon will be able to punish opponents on the ground as well as through the air this season. In the 3rd quarter, Calcei found a hole in the Sewanee defense and dashed 64-yards for the score, diving into the left corner of the end zone to evade a would-be tackler at the goal line. On the first play of Kenyon’s very next drive, Beaudouin put his juke moves on display with a shifty 57-yard rush which led to the game-tying TD. Of course, the hogs up front (Sr. RT #76 Alex Oles, So. RG #72 Josh Walmer, Jr. LT #66 Casey Cook, Jr. LG #56 Mike Cullen and So. C #51 Parker Subia) deserve tons of credit for opening up lanes for Calcei and Beaudouin, as well as for protecting Bates, who was sacked only once on the day.
The loss of Senior Co-Captain DB #24 Alec McQuiston is absolutely devastating.
Due to a leg injury which he sustained in the 2nd quarter against Sewanee, McQuiston is out indefinitely at the moment, putting the Kenyon secondary in a difficult situation to say the least. While Jr. DB #15 Jack Hanratty did excellent in relief for McQuiston, blowing up Sewanee option runs left and right, McQuiston’s value to the team is not strictly derived from his athleticism and knowledge of the game, but also from his charismatic leadership which he has fostered during his three seasons of dedication to this program. All of us at Gambier Gameday sincerely wish McQuiston a speedy recovery.
The two main turning points of the game, one which gave Kenyon new life and one which put the game out of Kenyon’s reach for good, happened to occur on 4th down plays.
Facing a 4th-and-1 from Kenyon’s own 30 yard line with less than two minutes to play in the 2nd quarter, Coach Mono was faced with a difficult decision: go for the first down and try to put up some points before going into the locker room, or punt the ball away and keep Sewanee out of the end zone for the remainder of the half. There was no doubt that Kenyon’s offense needed to not only move the chains but get on the scoreboard if they wanted a fighting chance against Sewanee in the 2nd half; however, if the Lords failed to convert and Sewanee took over deep in Kenyon territory, the Tigers could have easily ended things right then and there.
Knowing that Kenyon’s offense, impotent up until that point in the game, needed a spark, Coach Mono elected to go for the first down. Coach Mono’s decision flat out changed the game, as Bates picked up the 1st down with a 3-yard quarterback keeper before connecting with Hunca for the TD on the very next play. Bates’ TD ignited a huge momentum shift, and the Lords were able to find the end zone on each of their next two drives to tie the game.
Two quarters later, down 28-21 with less than three minutes to play in the 4th quarter, Kenyon needed the ball back in order to bring their offense onto the field with a chance to tie the game. Facing a 4th-and-6, Sewanee brought out their punt team, and it looked like Kenyon’s offense would get their shot at sending the game into overtime. In a devastating turn of events, the Sewanee punter picked a bad snap out of the air and scampered 13 yards for the 1st down. Not only did the 4th down conversion give the Tigers a new set of downs, but Sewanee was able to knock in a 40-yard field goal four plays later to make it a two-score game with 1:07 remaining.
Despite signs of great promise, the Lords are going to need to start fast and finish strong in order to get the W against Oberlin next week.
Admittedly, Kenyon’s offense struggled early on against Sewanee, not picking up a first down until late in the 2nd quarter (the sole exception being Kenyon’s second possession of the game, in which the Tigers handed the Lords a first down via a personal foul). During that time, Sewanee was able to build up a 21-point lead, coming from which is quite a tall order for any team. In addition, while Kenyon’s 21-point comeback was extraordinarily impressive and encouraging, the Lords really needed to deal Sewanee the finishing blow when they had them up against the ropes. Kenyon has the potential to be a dangerous team, and if they can build an early lead and not let up, they’ll be a force with which to be reckoned in the NCAC this season.