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Harvey Wilhelm
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Strong Defensive Performance Drowns Out Lake Forest, Offense Gets Caught in Wake

After allowing 71 points in the team’s first two games, the Pioneer defense had to step up to give their team a shot at defeating Lake Forest on Saturday, Sept. 21. That’s exactly what they did. The Pioneers intercepted four passes—one of which was run back to the opponents two-yard line—and only allowed 15 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Pioneers lost 15-7 after only managing 105 yards of total offense.

Photograph by Alysia Horcher. David Ternes ’15 wraps up a Lake Forest player for one of his 11 tackles.

The loss brought Grinnell’s record to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the conference, while the Foresters improved to 3-0 and 2-0 in league play.

The Pioneers were forced to play without their regular quarterback, Sam Poulos ’16, who had started the team’s previous 12 games, dating back to last season. Poulos injured his arm in Grinnell’s 42-13 loss at Illinois College on Saturday, Sept. 14.

T.J. Goetz ’14, who had not played football for the Pioneers since 2010 and who had not played quarterback since high school, took the snaps for Grinnell.

“The biggest thing for me was that there was a big change of pace. It was a little different than high school,” Goetz said.

Head coach Jeff Pedersen ’02 noted the adversity Goetz faced in his first collegiate action as quarterback.

“We knew it was not a good situation for T.J. to have his first game experience be a start against a good defense, but I thought he was composed. He handled himself well. He was trying to be a good leader,” Pedersen said. “He didn’t hit on all his throws, but he did what you would expect of a first-time starter and the unfortunate thing is that we didn’t step up around him to help him out. We didn’t give him the protection that he needed. We didn’t run the ball like we needed. We didn’t run good routes like we needed. There were a lot of things we could and should’ve done to help him out more.”

Goetz completed 16 of 36 passes, along with four interceptions, on his way to 105 yards in the air. The Grinnell running game ended the game with no yards on 22 attempts, largely in part to Lake Forest’s strategy.

“[Lake Forest] stacked the box against the run because they knew early on that we would probably be trying to run with a different quarterback in there and once that got shut down, they were able to bring some pressures and pressure the QB and force some bad throws,” Pedersen said.

On the other side of the ball, the defense played well throughout the game despite being on the field for close to two-thirds of the game.

“It was a phenomenal effort from the defense,” Pedersen said.

The defense didn’t mind playing so much—nearly 40 minutes of the 60-minute contest.

“We were having a lot of fun Saturday. In a way we kind of wanted to be out there because we knew we were having a lot of success,” said linebacker Colton Feller ’14.

Before the game, Pedersen encouraged his defensive players to come up with some turnovers, and then bring him the ball.

“[I said] ‘I want you to go take the ball and when you get that interception, when you get that fumble, bring it back to me on the sidelines.’ And they did it. Seth [Gustafson ’14] and Andrew [Clark ’14], both on their first two picks, came sprinting back and handed the ball to me, which was really fun … That was a lot of fun for the guys and got our team fired up,” Pedersen said.

After allowing over 1,100 yards in their first two games, the defense vastly improved, only permitting 274 yards of total offense by the Foresters.

“We just trusted each other a lot more. The first two games, guys were trying to do other guys’ jobs,” Feller said.

This week, Grinnell will host the Beloit Buccaneers, who are 1-2 overall and 1-1 in conference.

“If we get an effort like we did last week from our defense, that’s gonna make it an exciting game at the very least,” Pedersen said.

Feller noted the defense’s ability to stop a team’s running game and hoped the Pioneers would be able to stop Beloit’s ground attack.

“If we can make team’s one-dimensional, that’s going to help you no matter who you are,” he said. “If we can shut the run down, I think we have a really good chance of beating them.”

Saturday will mark the Pioneers’ first game on their home turf of Rosenbloom Field after three weeks on the road.

“It’s been way too long … It’s Family Weekend, so hopefully there’s going to be a big crowd there,” Feller said.

Pedersen noted than an anonymous alum is donating $10 for every student who attends any Grinnell athletic event on Saturday.

“We better have every kid on campus come out to some game on Saturday,” he said.

More detail about the donation and a comprehensive preview of parents weekend is available in “A Family of Five Pioneer Teams Coming Home This Weekend.”

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