Grinnell football opens season with 48-0 loss to Monmouth, team remains optimistic


Evan Hein

The Grinnell football team practices following their season-opening loss to Monmouth University, 48-0. Players remain hopeful for success this season despite the disappointing opener.

George Kosinski, Staff Writer

Ever since making national headlines in the fall of 2019 for the abrupt cancellation of their season, the Grinnell College football team has been in rebuilding mode. Last fall, after the 2020 season was cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Grinnell football put its improvement on full display — winning multiple games, including a signature victory over Lawrence University and finishing ahead of several teams in the Midwest Conference standings.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, hoping to build off the promise of last year, the team opened its season at home against Monmouth College. Unfortunately, the 2022 season got off to a rocky start. Monmouth College defeated Grinnell in a lopsided 48-0 blowout, in which Grinnell’s offense was stifled for most of the game while the defense struggled to contain Monmouth’s juggernaut attack.

Though ugly on paper, the loss did not discourage members of the Grinnell football team. 

“The scoreboard was probably not what we wanted it to look like, but I also don’t think that it reflected how we played. We made some mistakes and could have been better, but we’ll improve on that next week. I think we played a lot better than it looked,” said quarterback Grayson Woodhouse `24.

“The scoreboard would say it’s the same as it has been the past few years,” said running back Daniel Quirk `25. “I know that can be a little discouraging but being on the sideline and being in the game you can tell that it’s definitely different this year. Guys are more bought in. Sometimes it takes a second, but I really think over the next few weeks we’re going to get into a nice groove and really launch our season.”

Now, looking ahead toward the rest of the season, the team hopes to improve upon its first performance and last year’s 2-7 record. “We want to build off what we did last year,” said Quirk. “We really want to pick up some wins, which hasn’t been the norm for this program for a while. We call it the foundation — you have probably seen it all over the t-shirts — and it sounds really corny, but that’s kind of what last season was for us: setting a base for the next few years to keep growing. I’d say this year we want to be around five hundred [.500], picking up two to three more wins than last year.”

“I think all of us just want to win more football games,” agreed Woodhouse. “I think there are certain teams that we lost to last year, and this year we know we should start beating these teams and competing with them more.”

It remains to be seen whether results will improve, but team members said they already noticed a better atmosphere around the team this year. “We’ve been talking about this a lot, and some of the older guys have been saying how much different the culture is than what it was when they joined the football team, and how much better it is,” said Woodhouse. “Everyone is a lot closer, and overall, it’s a better team culture than we’ve had here at Grinnell for a long time.”

“It’s a great atmosphere for getting better as a team overall,” said Quirk. “I feel like everyone wants to improve. We’re all bought in, and nobody [is] just here to be on the team and not participate. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to develop, and I think overall the team attitude is really positive.”

Both Quirk and Woodhouse mentioned the current first-year class as a key to the team’s success this year. “There are a lot of first-years that are really good, and in their first game last week they showed what we can look forward to in the next few weeks as they gain experience and play more college football,” said Woodhouse. 

Quirk and Woodhouse both mentioned linebacker Davis Cooper `26 as a new player they expect to have a big season. Others to watch out for include Woodhouse, who returns as starting quarterback, Quirk, last season’s second leading rusher and wide receiver Nick Rhinehart `25 on offense. 

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Adam Khater `23 returns after leading the team in tackles last year, Luke Porter `23 returns on the line, and defensive back Hugh Werner `25 looks to build on an impressive first season. “Werner is a great leader, and kind of runs the defense,” said Woodhouse. “We’re expecting him to have a great season this year.”

Led by Head Coach Brent Barnes, who is also the offensive coordinator, the team will continue operating the pistol formation offensively. On the other side of the ball, new Defensive Coordinator Jason Martinez has implemented a new, blitz-heavy scheme with the intent of applying heavy pressure to opposing teams. 

“Style is different for both sides of the ball,” said Quirk. “On defense we want to be imposing physically and bring lots of pressure. On offense it’s all about execution, knowing where you have to be every play, making the right assignment, whether that’s running the right route, the right timing on throws or the right assignment on run blocks. It’s about knowing what you have to do and then having the ability to go do it.”

Looking at the remaining eight games of the season, several key contests stand out. “Obviously, every game is a big game, especially when we only have nine of them this year. Specifically, we want to play well against Illinois College and Cornell College. Those are two big games this year that we think we can do well in,” said Quirk.

The outcomes of Grinnell’s next two games against Lawrence University and Beloit College — both teams which Grinnell beat last year — should indicate what direction the season goes for the team and whether it lives up to its full potential building from last year’s improvement. 

The team’s next game is at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 17 at Lawrence; their next home game is on Saturday, Oct. 1 against Beloit.