Ripon College football vs. Monmouth

Braden Folbrecht scores a touchdown for Ripon in the first quarter. Ripon ended up dropping the game 31-21.

Missed opportunities.

That summed up the game for the Ripon College Red Hawk football team last week Saturday as it lost to the Monmouth Fighting Scots 31-21 at Ingalls Field.

Ripon had the ball with good field position when leading 14-7 twice in the second quarter, but threw interceptions and again had a good chance to at least tie the game following an interception in the third quarter, but a penalty put it behind the chains and knocked it out of field-goal range.

Had the Red Hawks won the game, they would have put themselves in a position to possibly finish in a three-way tie for second place in the Midwest Conference at 6-2. Instead, they will finish in fourth place. Monmouth entered last week Saturday’s game in second place with only one conference loss.

"It was a frustrating day in the sense that we really played well enough to win the game, but we did not take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves,” Ripon head coach Ron Ernst said. “We certainly created enough turnovers, but we turned the ball over more than we should have; some dumb decisions in terms of an unsportsmanlike penalty cost us points … When it came right down to it, we were every bit as good, if not the better team that day, and we quite frankly felt we should have won that game.”

Ripon capitalized one of its opportunities early in the game as Daylin Smith picked off a Monmouth pass and the Red Hawks marched the ball down the field for a 14-play, 77-yard scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead. The drive, which was going against a strong wind that wreaked havoc for both teams throughout the game, was capped off by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Jarret Zibert to Braden Folbrecht.

The Fighting Scots took advantage of a short punt that was affected by the wind late in the first quarter to tie up the game, but a kick of their own early in the second that went out of bounds gave Ripon the ball in good field position. Zibert then connected with Parker Campana for completions of 27 and 36 yards with the wind at their back, with the latter resulting in a touchdown and 14-7 lead.

Ripon had a chance to build onto that advantage later in the quarter as it began drives at Monmouth’s 48- and 40-yard lines following short punts, but Zibert was picked off on both drives. The Fighting Scots managed to convert a 29-yard field goal going against the wind to make it 14-10 at halftime.

Monmouth then drove the ball down the field on the opening possession of the second half with the wind at its back, capping off an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive with a 23-yard run by Devin Pinkard.

The Red Hawks had a chance to tie the game at 17 later in the quarter following an interception by Tearsen Giles that was returned to Monmouth’s 11-yard line, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back to the 24-yard line and Erik Flores was just short on a 38-yard field goal attempt.

The score remained 17-14 into the fourth quarter, until the Fighting Scots got a 21-yard return on a punt and followed it up with a 45-yard completion and 10-yard run to take a 24-14 lead. Ripon then fumbled on its next play and Monmouth capitalized, going 35 yards in four plays to make it 31-14.

The Red Hawks scored a late touchdown when Rosendale native Cormac Madigan found the end zone on a 22-yard run. Madigan finished with a team-high 114 yards rushing on 19 carries. He also completed 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards after taking over for Zibert at quarterback in the fourth quarter.

He did throw one interception, which was part of four turnovers in the game for the Red Hawks.

Offensively, Ripon ended with 277 yards of total offense, with it being split evenly between passing yards (139) and rushing yards (138).

Ernst noted the offense is still learning and growing after switching from the triple-option offense it ran for around two decades to a more spread attack.

“When you've run such an offense [triple-option] that we had for so many years and you install a new scheme, it's going to take a year or so for guys to really get into it, learn it,” he said. “We're still growing, we're still learning and we're still trying to recruit the right kind of personnel to fit that scheme.”

Defensively, the Ripon coach noted there were really only three plays that the Red Hawks gave up that hurt them. Other than that, he thought his defense played well, was flying around and creating turnovers.

Monmouth finished with 364 yards of total offense, with 218 of those yards coming through the air.

“I felt we had a really good game plan going in to stop them, and we did quite frankly,” Ernst said, noting Ripon had to defend some short fields. “We just didn't get it done in those two or three different plays.”

He added Ripon will try to learn from the loss to Monmouth and that “in order to win those kinds of games, you have to be in them and lose them because that teaches you what you should, should not, can or cannot do.”

“I told our guys yesterday that this will only be a failing game if we don't learn from it,” Ernst said. “If we learn from it … and it helps us down the road, then OK, good. But if we sit back and coulda, shoulda, woulda-type thing and don't do anything about it, then it will be a failing grade for us.”

Up next

The Red Hawks will try to learn from the Monmouth loss Saturday, Nov. 20, when they travel to Appleton to face the rival Lawrence Vikings at 1 p.m. at the Banta Bowl to close out the regular season. The game initially was slated to take place this Saturday, but was postponed a week due to COVID-19 protocols.

Ripon is looking for its 21st-straight win against the Vikings in what is Wisconsin’s oldest college football rivalry. The last time the Red Hawks lost to Lawrence was in 1999. They hold a 66-46-7 edge in the series.

"We've held the trophy for 20 years,” Ernst said. “It's ... not only for a big game for us, but for our alumni, for our school ... When you do deal with rivalries, you throw the records out the window. I know we're going to have a lot of alums at the game. I want our kids to play well. I want us to peak at that game. And I want to head into the offseason with a win and a 7-3 record and that would be pretty good."

He added that a 7-3 record would be “an excellent year,” especially for a team that came out of the spring as rough as it did.

“I think we would feel pretty good about that,” Ernst said. “Certainly, we feel like we could have gotten the other three games, but we didn't. So we go to work after the last game and start getting ready for 2022.”

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