BELOIT - Last Saturday's exciting 23-20 come-from-behind victory over visiting Knox College not only put Beloit College's Buccaneers in the win-column, it gave them reason for optimism heading into their bye week.
"There's a lot of positivity over the next two weeks and that helps," starting senior quarterback Erick Mitchell said Wednesday. "We also have a few guys banged up and this gives them time to recover and get healthy."
The Buccaneers (1-1) will host Cornell College on Sept. 22 for homecoming. The Rams were ranked sixth in the South Division in the Coaches' Preseason poll, behind fifth-ranked Knox.
Mitchell said the next order of business to end a two-homecoming game slide.
"We can enjoy the win over Knox for a couple more days, but then we need to start getting ready for Cornell," Mitchell said. "We haven't won our homecoming game since I was a freshman. It's a really good crowd and atmosphere. It's a game we really need to win."
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Mitchell was a sometime starter a year ago before Ben Sposito took over as No. 1. Sposito chose not to return to the team this fall, however.
"When Sposito left, Erick was the next guy up," Beloit head coach Seth Duerr said. "He played quite a bit last season and he did some good things. I think he has come a long way in both his throwing ability and reads."
Mitchell was eager to take charge.
"I worked hard in the off-season, but I would have prepared the same way whether Ben was coming back or not," Mitchell said. "I always prepare to compete for a position and either way I want to be ready when I'm needed."
Back home in San Antonio, Texas, Mitchell threw a lot of passes to a friend and fellow Division III athlete.
"I focused a lot on throwing to spots more to throwing guys open," he said. "I've been here a long time now and I have a good grasp of the system. I think the reason I do is because when Danny (May) was here we were really good friends and he taught me a lot. He was a very good quarterback here and helped me through the journey."
When camp started for the 2018 season, Mitchell was firmly entrenched as the starter. In the season-opening 36-10 loss at Concordia-Chicago, he completed 18-of-31 passes for 206 yards, but Beloit struggled mightily in the red zone.
The Bucs weren't exactly a scoring machine through three quarters against Knox last Saturday. They fell behind 20-7.
But that all changed in the fourth quarter as they scored 16 points. For the game, Mitchell was 20-for-34 for 236 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target for the day, Tyler Korous, snagged 10 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
"We showed what this offense is capable of," Mitchell said. "This is a really good offensive system that can get a lot of guys involved. When we start rolling, we're hard to stop. I think we have a lot better offense than we did last year."
"We started converting on third downs," Duerr said. "Erick gained some confidence and I think we started to understand how good we can be."
The game finally came down to a 37-yard field goal try with 22 seconds left by Beloit freshman Juan Reyes. The Turner grad booted it through the uprights for the winning points.
"People around here know all about Juan because he's a local kid," Mitchell said. "He's awesome. He's going to do some big things here before he's through. It's good to have a local guy already cemented on the team because that should help recruiting and they're going to need a big incoming class next year. He's is the type of leader the team needs going forward."
While Reyes loved the idea of playing close to home, Texan Mitchell was drawn to the distance the Bucs offered him, as well as the academic opportunities.
• NOTES: Beloit's Joey Werner leads the MWC in rushing with 62 attempts for 262 yards (4.2). He had 133 on 30 tries against Knox. ...Mitchell's 221 yards per game passing ranks fourth in the league. He has completed 38-of-65 passes for 442 yards. ...Beloit is second in the MWC averaging 388.5 yards per game. The Bucs are fourth in passing and fifth in rushing. ...Patrick Nicolas led the Bucs with 11 tackles, including five solo, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
• UP NEXT: The Bucs will host Cornell College for homecoming Sept. 22 at Strong Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.