The Tabor College Bluejays soared over Haskell Indian Nations Univer?sity, 48-0, in the season opener Saturday night in Lawrence.
Tabor?s running game was a key factor in outcome, accounting for 303 of the Bluejays? 492 yards of total offense.
?I?m excited about how we ran the football,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?Coming in, we didn?t really have any game film to study, and we didn?t really know what to expect. But we were able to do some stuff to them with our coverage that I think confused them a little bit.
?Our kids just came out ready to play.?
They came out ready to take advantage of Haskell mistakes, too. With nine minutes left in the first quarter, the Bluejays recovered an Indian fumble and returned it to the Tabor 35-yard line. That set up a 2-yard touchdown run by James Monroe Jr. at the 6:08 mark. A 2-point conversion pass from Tim Rozzell to Cordell Simmons made it 8-0.
Monroe then ran in for another touchdown from 44 yards out with 9:03 left in the half, giving Tabor a 15-0 lead when freshman Anthony Pacheco kicked the extra point.
Pacheco added a 34-yard field goal with 2:23 left to give Tabor an 18-0 lead at intermission.
Tabor extended its lead in the third quarter when Monroe struck again, this time from two yards out. Pacheco?s kick made it 25-0 at the 12:05 mark. With 6:37 left, Tabor scored again, this time sneaking in from a yard out. The extra point was blocked, but the lead was 31-0.
As if to put an exclamation point on the night, Jordan Moshier intercepted a Haskell pass and ran to midfield with just over a minute left in the third quarter. On the next play, Brandon Johnson ran 48 yards for a touchdown. Pacheco nailed the kick for a 38-0 margin.
Tabor scored a final touchdown on its next possession. After Monroe carried the ball to the 3-yard line, Johnson hit the end zone from four yards away. Another successful kick made it 45-0 with 13:59 left in the game.
Meanwhile, Tabor?s defense throttled Haskell. On the Indians? next possession, freshman linebacker Eddie Alcantar batted down one pass, JoJo Galvez deflected another, and the Bluejays nearly blocked a punt.
Pacheco ended the scoring with a 36-yard field goal with 3:12 left.
Monroe finished with 146 yards on 18 carries to go with his three touchdowns. Johnson added 128 yards and two scores on 13 carries.
?Definitely, James Monroe and Brandon Johnson (stepped up tonight),? Gardner said. ?They did such a nice job running the football.?
Rozzell added 183 yards through the air on 17-for-24 passing, with Duray Gardener pulling in seven catches for 80 yards.
Gardner was pleased with the performance of his offensive line and special teams, especially the punt-return efforts of Tanner Giffin and Aziz Spell?man-Smith.
?Anytime you get guys out there who can field every punt and get positive yardage, that?s nothing but absolute positive,? Gardner said.
?We need to make sure we take care of what we can control, and continue to put ourselves in a position to get good field position,? he added. ?I felt like a few times in the first half we did put ourselves in a position where we had some really good field position.?
Gardner said he?s glad his team accomplished one of its goals: to start the season with a win.
?Football is a sprint, it?s not a cross-country meet,? he said. ?Unfortunately in football, you only get 10 shots at it every year, maybe 11 if you?re lucky. If you start off and stub your toe a couple times, it?s really hard to get some momentum.
?It?s really important in football to get momentum, and we were definitely able to get that tonight.?
Coming?Coach Mike Gard?ner said he knows his team will need to improve if it is to be competitive in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
He said Saturday?s conference opener at Sterling College will be much different than the smackdown of Haskell. The Warriors are ?disciplined and always very good,? he said.
Game time is 7 p.m.