Scots ready for mental game against Knox
An 11-game winning streak by Monmouth College in the annual Battle for the Bronze Turkey will do nothing to diminish the intensity Saturday when the Fighting Scots meet the Knox College Prairie Fire for a 1 p.m. kickoff in Galesburg at the Knosher Bowl.
The Scots’ haven’t lost since a 28-20 setback to the Fire in 1998. Monmouth began its series-record win streak with a 27-26 victory the following year. Since the streak began, the Scots have won by an average of 29 points and have scored fewer than 30 points just twice. Monmouth’s defense has held Knox scoreless three times since 2004.
With Chad Eisele at the helm, Knox is hoping to swing those numbers in its favor this weekend. Monmouth enters the game at 5-4 and needs a win to finish over .500 for the eighth consecutive year. The four losses are the most since a 5-5 campaign in 2002.
“They’ll be a little different,” predicted Monmouth coach Steve Bell of the Prairie Fire’s overall look. “They’re a different offense than in the past. We’ll prepare for that part of it, but the majority of this game is mental.”
Old-time followers of the rivalry often tell fans to “throw the records out the window.” That’s just what both coaches are telling their teams.
“It’s all about can we handle everything that goes with the rivalry,” claimed Bell. “Can we handle situations as they pop up during the game? Are we tough enough, mentally, to handle those situations?”
Judging by the Scots’ two overtime wins this season – including last week’s 16-13 nailbiter over Carroll – the answer may be “Yes.”
While the Scots may have gotten a good dose of maturity this season for their young team, Knox knows this may be their best chance in a decade to knock off their rivals. The Scots have fallen from their usual perch atop most of the league standings and find themselves in the middle of the stats pack. Knox, meanwhile is at or near the bottom of most categories.
“I’m sure Knox is believing this is a great opportunity to win the rivalry game,” said Bell. “It’s going to be 60 minutes for one team to prove they’re good enough to win the game.”
If fans are encouraged to throw the records out the window, they may want to shed the stats, too.
“It’s a fun game to play in,” claimed Bell. “We have a youthful team with a lot of guys that haven’t played in this type of environment before.”
That inexperience could be a negative or a positive for the Scots, depending on your point of view.
“It is what it is,” said Bell. “It’s neither a plus or a minus. Our players understand the rivalry. We talk about what the rivalry is about. It’s a healthy rivalry. We just need to take care of our business.”
The Scots’ business lately has been to stage fourth-quarter rallies. They’ve been successful in two-thirds of the last quarter heroics, and both of those were wins in overtime.
Bell is hoping there is no need for a fourth-quarter comeback or overtime. He’s already witnessed his fair share of those this season.