The final numbers could hardly have been more opposite in the No. 20 Tabor College football team?s 52-25 victory over Saint Mary Saturday night.
Tabor recorded 442 yards of total offense compared to Saint Mary?s 439. But while the Bluejays preferred to keep the ball on the ground, Saint Mary thrived on the passing game.
Joseph Donnell powered a solid Bluejay running game with 22 carries for 209 yards and three touchdowns, helping Tabor to 421 yards rushing for the night. Simon McKee was 4-for-17 through the air for 21 yards.
Meanwhile, Spire quarterback Drew Cortez completed 33 of 58 attempts for 425 yards and one touchdown. Saint Mary netted just 14 rushing yards.
?What they do with their passing game is what we try to do with our run game,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?They really put an emphasis on that. Coach Osborne does a tremendous job. This is probably the best Saint Mary team we?ve ever faced.?
Tabor?s defense was a force to be reckoned with all night, recording three interceptions which led to points, blocking an extra-point attempt and running it back for a safety, and recording four quarterback sacks.
Defensively, the Bluejays played without All-KCAC athletes Ben Gardner and Dylan Delk. Gardner was sidelined as a result of a season-ending knee injury sustained at Ottawa last week, but Coach Gardner said Delk will ?be fine.?
The Bluejays set the tone from the start by forcing a Spire turnover on downs on the game?s opening drive. Thanks to a pair of Spire penalties, Tabor needed just four plays to score, and Donnell crossed the goal line after an 18-yard carry. Alex Neuschafer?s two-point conversion gave Tabor an early, 8-0 lead, which held through the end of the first quarter.
Saint Mary scored 29 seconds into the second quarter, after a nine-play, 76-yard drive. Derrick Lawrence blocked the PAT attempt for an 8-6 score.
Following a Tabor three-and-out, James Foote intercepted Cortez?s first-down pass and ran it back for a touchdown, making it 15-6.
Three plays later, defensive lineman Dimitri Bowie recorded an interception. Tabor capitalized on the turnover when Jonah McKee scored from 6 yards out on the fourth play of the drive. Suddenly, Tabor had built a 22-6 lead, which held to halftime.
The Bluejay offense went right to work after intermission, covering 55 yards in 11 plays and scoring on a 1-yard D?Marco Smith run.
Saint Mary responded with an 11-play scoring drive. Kareem Green blocked the extra-point kick and ran the ball back for two points, making it 31-12 at the 4:50 mark.
The third quarter ended with Saint Mary knocking on the door, and the Spires capped the 13-play, 81-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run two plays into the final period for a 31-18 margin.
Tabor added three touchdowns in the final quarter, including a 48-yard touchdown run by Donnell, a 3-yard score by Ben Bebermeyer, and a 10-yard run by Donnell on a drive set up by a Green interception.
Saint Mary scored its final touchdown on a 35-yard pass play.
Green led Tabor?s defense with 10 tackles and was named KCAC Defensive Player of the Week. Evan Sprayberry had three of Tabor?s four quarterback sacks. Trey Geiger was named KCAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
?Our kids played really well,? Gardner said. ?We got stops when we needed to get stops. I?m just proud of our guys.?
Coming?With the win, Tabor improved to 2-0 in KCAC play, 3-1 overall and moved up to No. 16 in the NAIA Top 25 poll. The Bluejays will travel to Sterling (1-1, 1-2) Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. game. Sterling defeated Friends, 30-19, Saturday.