Bluejays fall short in Peru shootout

There was plenty of offense on display Saturday night in Peru, Neb., but visiting Tabor College came up short against Peru State College, 48-45.

Tabor outgained the Bobcats, 617 to 363 yards of total offense, but the Bluejays? late turnovers propelled Peru State to the win. Tabor?s totals were student records for offensive yards in a single game.

Tabor was battling injuries, missing two linebackers, a safety, defensive line personnel and losing junior wide receiver Aziz Spellman-Smith in the contest.

?We gave a lot of freshman an opportunity to play,? said Coach Mike Gardner.

?At any point of the game we had eight freshmen playing between the offense and the defense.?

Twice in the fourth quarter Tabor threw interceptions, leading to a go-ahead score early in the quarter, and the end of a Bluejay drive deep in Bobcat territory with under a minute to play.

Leading 38-35 with just over 14 minutes to go, Tabor had the ball at its own 18-yard line. On third down, quarterback Joey Erickson was picked off by Jake Mertens.

Taking over at the Bluejay 10, Peru State scored in three plays on a 1-yard run by quarterback Curtis Thompson. Levi Cockle kicked the extra point for a 41-38 Bobcat lead with 12:54 to play.

On the ensuing kickoff, Brian Mendoza gave the Blue?jays good field position at the Bobcat 43 with a 40-yard return. Tabor scored in five plays to take a 45-41 lead with 10:39 to play. The points came on Erickson?s 13-yard strike to Kelsei Brown and Rothwell?s PAT.

PSC?s Garrett Campbell ran the kickoff back 53 yards to the Tabor 36 to set up the Bobcats? final scoring drive. Peru State used the run to get inside the 5, but the winning points came on a fourth-and-5 pass from Thomp?son to Quentin Edelman.

Starting at its own 26-yard line, Tabor still had a chance with 30 seconds to play. But on fourth-and-2, Sydney Sheplar intercepted Erickson?s pass at the Peru State 5-yard line, ending all hope.

?I wanted our kids to be in a situation to go for a win and make the thing happen,? said Gardner

Tabor was the first team to score. Starting its first possession in Bobcat territory, Tabor went up 7-0 when Erickson threw to Duray Gardener for a touchdown with 8:17 left in the first quarter.

Peru State answered 2 minutes later, capping a 62-yard drive with a running touchdown by Joel Woodhead. After Cockle missed the PAT, Peru State trailed 7-6.

The two teams traded field goals before the Bobcats capitalized on special-teams play to complete a 17-point shift.

After Aaron Annis?s punt into the wind traveled 15-yards, the Bobcats took over at midfield and grabbed a 15-10 lead on a 24-yard touchdown run by Jordan Hopwood and a failed 2-point pass attempt with 10:43 left in the first half.

Tabor turned the ball over again on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Bobcats possession at the Bluejay 25. Woodhead scored three carries later, but the Bobcats came up short on the 2-point try. Peru State led 21-10 with 9:51 in the half.

Spellman-Smith usually returns kicks but left the game early with an injury. He was replaced by freshman Fontaine Richardson.

?When you have that many young guys that are out there playing, these things are going to happen,? said Gardner.

Tabor ended the half by out?scoring Peru State 21-7 to take a 31-24 lead at intermission.

Moving 80 yards in seven plays, the Bluejays first scored on a 6-yard pass from Erickson to Gardener. With Rothwell?s kick, Tabor trailed, 21-17.

Peru State answered, scoring its last points of the half on a 59-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Lance Steffen. Cockle?s kick made it 28-17.

Tabor then scored with 5:42 left in the half on a six-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 6-yard scoring run by Andrew Herard. Tabor led 28-24 with 2:32 left in the half.

After a Bobcat three-and-out, Erickson completed five of nine passes for 80 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Davis with nine seconds left in the half.

Tabor opened the third quarter with another score, driving 62 yards mostly through the air. But Erickson scored on an 18-yard touchdown scramble on fourth-and-5 to extend Tabor?s lead to 38-28 at the 13:07 mark.

Peru State moved to within 38-35 with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Edelman on its next possession.

Erickson finished the day 36-for-63 passing for 511 yards, both school records, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. The senior quarterback also led Tabor in rushing with nine carries for 62 yards.

Erickson?s 573 yards of total offense was also a Tabor record.

Peru State?s Thompson finished 9-for-18 passing for 189 yards. The Bobcats? leading receiver was Edelman, who made six catches for 123 yards.

Gardener had 14 catches, a Tabor record, for 219 yards and two touchdowns to lead Tabor receivers. Nix added six catches for 116 yards.

Peru State out-rushed Tabor, 177 to 106 yards, led by Wood?head with 75 yards on 13 carries.

Coming?Tabor (1-3, 1-2) returns to Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play Saturday at Ottawa (4-1, 3-1). Ottawa beat Southwestern 51-0 Saturday in Winfield. The Bluejays and Braves will kick off at 6 p.m., a change from the original kick off time of 1:30 p.m.

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