‘Builders upset No. 3 Bluejays

Michael Griffin tackles Southwestern quarterback Tyler Crandall for a 2-yard loss late in the third quarter Saturday. Tabor lost the game to the Moundbuilders, 27-6. Janae Rempel / Free PressThe No. 3 Tabor College football team found little good fortune in a 27-6 loss at Southwestern Saturday.

Some might say the legend of Southwestern?s mythical ?Jinx? was in full force. But with Tabor?s last loss to the Moundbuilders being back in 2009 in Winfield, superstition could hardly be blamed for Tabor?s first loss of 2014, or credited with Southwest?ern?s first win for that matter.

Coach Mike Gardner praised his defense for their effort in a game that remained at 6-0 in favor of Southwestern through three quarters of play.

But the Bluejay offense never found an answer.

?We didn?t take advantage of the field position that we were given,??Gardner said. ?We just didn?t get any offensive production from the people that we normally get it from. We didn?t make the right reads, and when you don?t make the right reads and you have suspect quarterback play, then that generally is what happens.?

Heading into the final quarter, Southwestern clung to a 6-0 lead.

Earlier in the game, the Bluejays saw two of their field goal attempts blocked, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Colin Hodges returned the favor by blocking a 32-yard attempt by Southwestern?s Mario Esparza.

But Tabor went three-and-out, putting the ball back in the hands of the Moundbuilders.

Tabor?s defense came on the verge of forcing a three-and-out, but after Southwestern?s third-down pass was completed for no gain, the Bluejays were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Moundbuilders a fresh set of downs at the most crucial of times.

Things went downhill from there, as Southwestern made it a two-possession game on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Braden Langston to Skylor Kistler, capping an 11-play drive. Esparza?s kick made it 13-0 with 6:26 left in the game.

Desperately needing points, Tabor could not convert a first down, coming up just short on fourth-and-2.

Things went from bad to worse when Southwestern turned a third-and-13 at its own 40-yard line into another score, thanks to Kistler?s 60-yard touchdown scamper through the Bluejay defense. Esparza?s kick increased the Moundbuilders? lead to 20-0 with 3:25 left in the game.

With the game quickly getting out of hand, the Moundbuilders added insult to injury by scooping up a Tabor fumble on first down and returning it for yet another score just 16 seconds later, much to the delight of Southwestern?s homecoming crowd. Esparza?s kick made it 27-0 with 3:09 to go.

With one final offensive opportunity, Tabor pieced together a redeeming scoring drive to avoid the shutout. The Bluejays covered 33 yards in four plays, and quarterback Jessie Robbins ran in from 15 yards out for the score with 1:53 left in the game. Jared Slavens? kick was no good, bringing the score to the final, 27-6 margin.

Tabor quarterback Jesse Robbins heads for the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Moundbuilders. The Bluejays lost the game, 27-6. Phyllis Richert photoThe game began with Tabor forcing a Southwestern three-and-out, but the Bluejays? first drive stalled at the Moundbuilder 25-yard line, and Slavens? 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Vince Folston.

Southwestern recovered the ball and took it 34 yards to the Tabor 43, setting up the Moundbuilders? first scoring drive. Southwestern was in the end zone in six plays, cashing in on a 1-yard touchdown run by Anthony Sims. The two-point conversion pass attempt failed, putting the Moundbuilders in front, 6-0, with 5:20 left in the first quarter.

Despite a 76-yard kickoff return by Brandon Johnson that put Tabor at the Southwestern 21-yard line, Tabor could not convert a first down, and Folston blocked a second Slavens field goal attempt from 33 yards out. A Moundbuilder block-in-the-back penalty negated what would have been a Southwestern score after the blocked field goal.

Neither team found much offensive success after that, and the first half ended with the same, 6-0 margin.

Slavens missed a 36-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, and the score remained 6-0 heading into the fatal final quarter.

Tabor managed 171 yards of total offense, including 156 rushing yards led by Cody Coleman with nine carries for 53 yards.

Through the air, Robbins was 3-for-6 for 15 yards. Southwestern, meanwhile, rolled up 290 yards of total offense, including 170 rushing and 120 passing.

?We have to be able to score points,? Gardner said. ?We?ve got to take advantage of field position opportunities when we get them. We have to be able to take advantage of big plays when they happen, and it?s something that we just simply didn?t do on Saturday.?

Coming?Tabor (2-1, 4-1) will travel to Kansas Wesleyan (1-2, 1-4) Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. game. The Bluejays rank 11th in the latest NAIA Top 25 poll.

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