EUREKA, Ill. – Eureka College junior quarterback Blake Robles (East Lake, Fla./East Lake H.S./Ottawa) went 22-for-29 for 218 yards and three touchdowns in his Eureka debut, including the 9-yard game-winning strike to sophomore wideout Matt Mogged (Piper City, Ill./Tri-Point H.S.) with 6:03 left in the game, sending the Red Devils to a 21-17 victory over Knox in the second annual Lincoln Bowl, Saturday afternoon at McKinzie Field.
The Red Devils got on the board first in Saturday's season opener, limiting Knox to 10 yards and a punt before putting together a 10-play, 52-yard drive for a 7-0 lead. Robles went 5-for-5 for 46 yards on the drive that was capped by his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 4-yard toss to freshman wide receiver Dorell Baugh (Nashville, Tenn./Hillsboro H.S.) with 6:03 left in the first quarter. Baugh made the first three grabs of his collegiate career on the drive.
Eureka carried the lead into the second quarter before stretching the cushion to two possessions. Robles continued his strong play, connecting with three different receivers on the 4-play drive before finding Baugh, who forced several Knox tacklers to miss across the middle before outrunning the KC defense to the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown and a 14-0 advantage with 5:33 left before halftime.
Facing the two-score deficit, Knox was able to nearly slice its deficit in half before intermission. Just three plays after Baugh's second touchdown of the day, KC receiver Ilir Emini slipped past the Eureka secondary to snag a 69-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Luke Oosterbaan. Phil Tallman's extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving Eureka in front 14-6 with 4:17 left in the half. The Prairie Fire got the ball back after Eureka's ensuing three-and-out, but Eureka junior cornerback Christian Watson (Eureka, Ill./Eureka H.S.) stepped in front of errant Oosterbaan throw deep in Eureka territory for his first career interception to end the threat. EC carried the 14-6 lead into halftime.
After forcing a punt on Eureka's first series of the third quarter, the Prairie Fire put together a 10-play, 80-yard score drive to tie the game. A 34-yard pass from Oosterbaan to Neal Moon got KC deep into Eureka territory, but it was Derek Mortensen that did most of the work on the drive. The Knox running back carried seven times for 36 yards on the possession, including a 3-yard touchdown plunge and a successful run on the ensuing 2-point conversion to knot the score at 14-14 with 6:32 left in the third.
A sack and a penalty on Eureka's ensuing offensive possession forced a punt and a short field for the Knox offense later in the third. KC looked poised to grab its first lead of the afternoon, but Mortensen fumbled after an 11-yard carry to the Eureka 1, allowing the Red Devils to pounce and the bouncing football just outside the end zone for Knox's second turnover of the afternoon.
The Red Devils' momentum was cut short when Robles was intercepted by Chaz Benton, who returned the ball 17 yards to the Eureka 42. A 16-yard rush from Adam Brooking ultimately moved the ball all the way to the Eureka 1, but a pair of failed run plays and a fumbled snap forced the Prairie Fire to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Tallman and a 17-14 lead with 9:16 left in the game.
Eureka got the game-winning score less than four minutes later on a 75-yard scoring drive. Robles completed four passes on the series, including a 28-yard connection with Baugh and a 19-yard strike to senior Jake Bane (Dana, Ill./Fieldcrest H.S./Monmouth) that pushed the Red Devils into the red zone. Facing 3rd-and-7 from the Knox 9, Robles hit Mogged on a slant across the middle for the go-ahead score. Mogged's catch, just the second of his career, was his first collegiate touchdown.
The Red Devils and Prairie Fire traded punts over the next several minutes, giving Knox the ball back with 1:40 to play and no timeouts remaining. Oosterbaan's 5-yard pass to Emini moved the visitors into Eureka territory, but the Prairie Fire's fourth-down play was blown up when Eureka senior linebacker Frankie Bray (Ottawa, Ill./Barron-Collier H.S.) chased down a scrambling Oosterbaan from behind for an 8-yard loss and Bray's third career sack. Robles and the Red Devils kneeled out the clock moments later to secure Eureka's second consecutive 1-0 start.
Baugh made 12 grabs, tied for fifth-most in single-game Eureka history. His debut performance also marked the most receptions by a debuting Red Devil since Jordan Kindred hauled in 13 receptions in last season's Lincoln Bowl win over Knox. Baugh added 57 return yards to lead all players with 191 all-purpose yards.
Robles' 229 yards passing marked the most yards by a Eureka newcomer since Shaun Manning went for 273 passing yards at Aurora on Oct. 23, 2004.
Senior running back Corey Dawson (Farmington, Ill./Farmington H.S.) led the ground attack with 20 carries for 65 yards.
Defensively, Bray led EC with 12 total tackles, including 1.0 sack and 3.0 tackles for loss. Senior linebacker Drew Duffy (Flanagan, Ill./Flanagan-Cornell H.S.) made 11 stops, while senior linebacker Jacob Carls (El Paso, Ill./El Paso-Gridley H.S.) had 10. Senior defensive lineman Matt Stevenson (Minonk, Ill./Fieldcrest H.S.) added 2.0 tackles for loss and his second career sack.
Mortensen drove the Knox offense with 28 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Oosterbaan finished 9-for-20 for 140 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice.
The victory allowed the Red Devils to maintain possession of the Abraham Lincoln Bowl trophy. The two schools began playing for the traveling trophy in last season's inaugural event in Galesburg.
Eureka will begin Upper Midwest Athletic Conference play next Saturday, traveling to St. Paul, Minn. for a 1 p.m. bout with defending UMAC co-champion Northwestern (Minn.).