The last month had been rough on the Lawrence University football team.
Facing the Midwest Conference’s powerhouse teams in four consecutive weeks, the Vikings got beaten up pretty good.
Rather than packing it in for the final three weeks, Lawrence fought back by going on the road and handing out some punishment of its own. The Vikings beat Grinnell College 24-14 last Saturday and are looking to build on that success.
“We had the big four weeks where we were going up against Goliath every week,” Lawrence head coach Mike Barthelmess said. “When our guys get the opportunity to play against a like team, I feel like we are going to do well.
“I feel so strongly that when we do decide to show up and play, we can compete with anyone in the conference. We have the same opportunity this week.”
Lawrence (2-6, 2-5 MWC) travels to Knox College (1-7, 1-6) to face a vastly improved Prairie Fire squad on Saturday.
“Knox is so much better than last year, and they run the ball extremely well,” Barthelmess said. “Fortunately, our defense is starting to get better at the right time. The players are working hard and (defensive coordinator Jason Anderson and defensive assistant Rich Agness) are making the right adjustments.”
The Vikings defense allowed the fewest points (14) last Saturday since they gave up 12 to Knox back in 2010. They also allowed a season-low 268 yards, and Grinnell picked up 107 of those yards on just two plays.
Barthelmess said the defensive coaches left the calls to the players on the field, and that fits with his philosophy of the team taking ownership in the program.
“They (Anderson and Agness) train them all week as to what calls to make, and then they leave it to the guys to do that,” Barthelmess said. “You’ve got a defensive group that are starting to buy into a system that is much different than what they’ve had in the past.”
The Vikings also took a big step forward when Grinnell challenged Lawrence in the second half. Lawrence led 17-0 at the half, just like they did back in 2010. Two seasons ago, Grinnell came back and won 31-17. That didn’t happen last week after Grinnell scored on the opening possession of the second half.
“When we went into halftime this weekend, I was just crazed. I was bound and determined not to let that happen again,” Barthelmess said. “We had the 98-yard drive, and that was huge. That made a statement to Grinnell and ourselves that we were not going to let down.”
Lawrence answered the Grinnell score with a 13-play, 98-yard touchdown drive to go up 24-7. Grinnell got a 68-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to close within 10, but the Vikings dominated the rest of the game to close out the victory.
“I see potential in these guys. I see potential in these guys that they don’t see. When these things happen, it may surprise them but it doesn’t me,” Barthelmess said.
“I’ve been placed in this position to show these guys what they can be. If I can do that, then I’m doing my job.”
Senior football player Tyler Mazur has put together some eye-popping numbers in only two seasons as a wide receiver. Mazur, who came to Lawrence as a sophomore, played quarterback during his first season with the Vikings.
That hasn’t stopped him from amassing 116 catches for 1,927 yards and 20 touchdowns. Mazur is poised to be just the sixth receiver in Lawrence history to reach 2,000 receiving yards. He currently ranks sixth in Lawrence history in catches, seventh in receiving yards and fourth in total touchdowns.
Record set to fall
Junior quarterback Luke Barthelmess is set to break Lawrence’s career passing yards record, which has stood since 1979. Barthlemess has 5,352 yards, just 80 short of breaking the record of 5,431 established by All-America quarterback Jim Petran from 1976-79.
Dropping the puck
The Lawrence hockey team drops the puck on its home season Saturday night at the Appleton Family Ice Center when the Vikings host Concordia (Wis.) University. The Vikings play their season opener at Concordia on Friday night.