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Monmouth Aims to Clinch Division Outright in 131st Meeting with Rival Knox

MONMOUTH, IL (11/07/2019) Monmouth College (5-2) will take a 70-50-10 series lead into Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup with rival Knox (2-5) at April Zorn Memorial Stadium, but the Scots will have more at stake than just the storied Bronze Turkey trophy.

Clinching at least a share of the Midwest Conference South division crown in a 21-20 overtime win at the University of Chicago last weekend, Monmouth can claim the title outright with its 21st straight Turkey Bowl win. Only Chicago or Illinois College could catch the Scots with a Knox win, but Monmouth holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over both, ensuring it will be Monmouth in next week’s title game. That insurance policy won’t diminish the Scots’ focus in the rivalry, which began in 1888.

“It’s a rivalry game and from that viewpoint, both teams will be amped up and ready to go,” predicted Monmouth head coach Chad Braun, who has been a part of the last 19 series wins. “It’s a big game to win going into next week’s conference championship game. There won’t be any letdown in this one. We’re not happy with how we played defensively last week and our guys want to atone for that. We can play much better on both sides of the ball than we did at Chicago.”

The Scots’ division-clinching win last week came down to the final play by the defensive unit. Tied at 14-all at the end of regulation, the Scots scored on the first play in overtime when Devin Lawrence broke tackles on the way to a 25-yard touchdown run, giving him 165 rushing yards on the day. Following a Chicago TD on the ensuing possession, the Maroons opted for a two-point conversion, but safety Nick Miyler’s hard hit at the goal line dislodged the ball and snuffed out the attempt, giving Monmouth the win and the division crown.

Knox, which last won the Bronze Turkey in 1998, played to a 14-14 halftime time at their Homecoming last week with Cornell, but fell behind when the Rams outscored the Prairie Fire 14-0 in the third quarter. Fire quarterback Grant Graham controlled the air, throwing for 265 yards, giving him nearly 1,300 passing yards this season with 11 TDs.

“Graham does a nice job airing it out,” said a respectful Braun. “They’ve got a lot of weapons. Knox will present some tough matchups with their receivers and does a good job schematically.”

Sophomore receiver Hunter Lee has been Graham’s favorite target, snaring 29 passes for 547 yards and six scores. In the backfield, it’s a trio of backs led by junior Ty Straw’s 352 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Derrick Jackson is No. 2 in rushing yards with 289 and a pair of TDs. Senior Joey Auger has plowed through for three touchdowns in his 155 yards.

“Knox is a dangerous team,” warned Braun. “It’s a rivalry game and they’ll be willing to pull out all the stops. They’ve got a really athletic tight end in Kobe Shutter (14 receptions, 106 yards, 2 TDs) and a really good receiver in Hunter Lee. Their run game is good behind a solid offensive line, too. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, but the front six guys on our D-line came to practice this week ready to work and very motivated.”

Monmouth’s offense has caught fire during the team’s five-game win streak. Following the Week 1 and 2 losses to a pair of top 10-ranked teams, the Scots have put points on the boards, but would like a few more and will face a challenge with a different look from the Fire.

“Knox runs a different type of 3-4 defense,” reported Braun. “It’s not the type of 3-4 we see the rest of the year, so that will take some adjustment.”

Braun’s team is counting on adjustments on both sides of the ball in an effort to get back to the level when they rolled to their first three wins of the season.

“The main goal is to win the game,” said Braun. “But we also have a goal to be playing better this week than last week and better next week than this week. We’re nowhere close to reaching our peak. We’ve taken a step back defensively and that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job. The offense last week did a good job moving the ball. The big thing for the offense is to finish when we get in the red zone. Part of that is on the defense. We’ve got to give the offense more short fields and not make them have to put long drives together on every possession. We learned some lessons last week and we’ll be better for it this week. That I promise you.”

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