One week after putting up 73 points in their season opener, the Wartburg football team gained just 178 yards and turned the ball over three times in a 21-0 loss to No. 17 Bethel.
The Knights had 16 first downs to the Royal’s 13 but could not string any scoring drives together against a Bethel defense that returned seven starters from the No. 7 ranked unit in the country last year.
“Bethel is a good team,” linebacker Ryan Billings said. “We fought hard as a defense but here at Wartburg, fighting hard is not good enough. We’re here to win ball games.”
Freshman quarterback Logan Schrader threw two interceptions and also fumbled deep in Wartburg territory, setting up Bethel’s first touchdown.
Schrader dropped back to pass and did not see Brett Skoog come from his blindside. Skoog tipped the ball out of Schrader’s hands and recovered at the nine yard line.
Brett Marquardt scampered into the endzone on the first play after the turnover to put the Royals up 7-0 midway through the second quarter.
The Knights had the best chance to score in the first quarter but Frank Laconti missed a 48-yard field goal.
Laconti then missed a 33-yard attempt five minutes after the first Bethel touchdown and the game was still 7-0 at halftime.
Wartburg’s first drive of the second half stalled and the Royals completed the most impressive drive of the game as Derek Waldbillig scored from eight yards out in the final play of a 13-play, 71-yard drive.
Quarterback Erik Peterson’s 43-yard pass to Mitch Hallstrom setup the score as the Royals converted a 3rd and 9 from their own 30 yard line into a 1st and 10 from the Wartburg 27.
The Knights only advanced to the Bethel half of the field once in the second half, but Schrader was sacked on fourth down.
Peterson ran 49 yards for a touchdown two plays later to put the game out of reach, 21-0.
Contrary to the second half, the Knights took the ball into Royal territory seven times in the first but two interceptions, two missed field goals and an inability to convert on third and fourth downs led to Wartburg’s downfall.
“We didn’t win the turnover battle and that shows,” Billings said. “Anytime you win the turnover battle you have a better chance to win.”
Billings didn’t place the blame on the offense though. He said it’s the defense’s responsibility to force turnovers with the offense still getting used to a new quarterback.
The Knights only gained 61 yards on the ground with Connor Dahlstrom’s 34 yards on eight carries leading the way.
Schrader was 11-for-27 for 127 yards, two interceptions and a fumble. He was also sacked six times.
Curt Hruska made three catches for 56 yards. Donald Miller and Brandon Domeyer also had three catches for 34 and 27 yards, respectively.
Defensively, Wartburg held Bethel’s potent running attack to 60 total yards but gave up 214 yards through the air.
Billings led the team in tackles for the second straight week with 13 including four tackles for loss.
Drew Kooi had eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble and recovery.
Starting linebacker Jason Shupp did not play due to injury but hopes to be back in time for the conference opener Sept. 29 at Simpson.
Bethel (1-0) moved up to No. 12 in the d3football.com rankings and will host another IIAC team,Buena Vista (0-2), this week.
The Knights (1-1) wrap up conference play this Saturday against Carthage(1-0) in Kenosha, Wis. The game begins at 1 p.m. and is the first road game of the season for Wartburg.