Bluejays win KCAC opener versus Saint Mary

Tabor?s Ben Gardner forces Saint Mary receiver Antonio Cannon to drop the football on a pass play during the fourth quarter of Tabor?s 35-14 victory at Leavenworth. Gardner led the Bluejays with eight solo tackles.The fourth-ranked Tabor College football team got its first conference win of the 2014 season at the University of Saint Mary Saturday, 35-14.

The Bluejays countered the pass-heavy Spires with an efficient ground game, posting 456 rushing yards, led by Owen Cole with 21 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown. Marshall McShan also surpassed the century mark with 18 carries for 115 yards and a score.

Through the air, Tabor quarterback Jessie Robbins was 6-for-11 for 25 yards and a touchdown.

The Spires, meanwhile, recorded 109 rushing yards, led by Torion Amos with 11 carries for 88 yards. USM had 324 passing yards, led by Josh Ervin, who completed 18 of 50 attempts for 253 yards and a score.

?Whenever you play a team that throws it 100 times or more in practice, they?re going to make yards and complete balls,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?But we only gave up, I think, three big plays. Other than that, the receptions that their guys had, we had defenders right there.?

The Spires took to the air from the start, but came up empty on the game?s opening drive when a field goal attempt missed its mark.

Tabor responded with its powerful running game, covering 79 yards in just four plays and scoring on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Robbins to Cody Coleman. Jared Slavens added the extra-point kick for a 7-0 Bluejay lead with 9:55 left in the first quarter.

Colin Hodges intercepted the ball on the third play of the next Spire drive, and that set up Tabor?s second score. Behind the running of McShan, Tabor covered 49 yards in six plays, culminating in a 10-yard rushing touchdown by McShan. Slavens? kick made it 14-0. That score held till the end of the first period, but the quarter ended with the Spires on the move.

Owen Cole breaks a tackle and gains a first down during the fourth quarter at the University of Saint Mary Saturday. Cole scored a 2-yard touchdown run on the drive, which resulted in Tabor?s final margin of victory, 35-14. Cole was Tabor?s leading rusher with 21 carries for 162 yards.After a 25-yard run by Amos to start the second quarter, Marcus Mata completed an 18-yard touchdown strike to Antonio Cannon. Tim Mitchell?s kick closed the gap to 14-7 less than a minute into the second period.

The Bluejays answered by driving to the Spire 1-yard line, but USM took a defensive stand, and Tabor came up empty when Slavens? 22-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.

With the Spire offense finding rhythm, USM tied the game at 14 after a 42-yard touchdown pass and extra-point kick.

Tabor fired back with a scoring drive in the final five minutes of the half, cashing in when Coleman found room around the left side for a 6-yard score with just 40 seconds left. Slavens? kick put Tabor in front, 21-14, a score that held to intermission.

?That was a great drive,? Gardner said. ?It was great clock management by our offense. Jessie did a really nice job of being real calm and getting us in a position where we could score.?

Neither team scored in the third quarter. The quarter included a Robbins interception two plays in, and later, a 37-yard missed field goal attempt by Slavens.

Tabor broke the scoring drought four plays into the final quarter when Jonah McKee ran untouched around the left side for a 20-yard touchdown. Slavens? kick lifted the Bluejays to a 28-14 lead.

Jason Daughtry intercepted Ervin?s pass on the first play of USM?s next drive, but Tabor could not capitalize. The teams traded punts, then Ben Gardner grabbed an interception.

A 35-yard run by Cole gave Tabor first-and-goal at the USM 2-yard line, and Cole was in the end zone on the next play. Slavens? kick made it 35-14 with 6:25 to go.

Although the Spires drove to the Tabor 15-yard line on their next possession, the Bluejay defense forced a turnover on downs, and Tabor was able to run out the final 4:24 to win by 21.

Ben Gardner led Tabor?s defense with eight total tackles. Shawn Johnston had the Bluejays? only sack.

?Whenever you play a pass-happy team like that, they?re going to eventually get in a situation where they?re going to have a short drive and their defense is going to have to be right back out on the field, and that?s what ended up happening,? Gardner said. ?We ended up wearing down their defense, and that?s how we won.?

Coming?Tabor (1-0, 3-0), who moved up to No. 3 in the NAIA Top 25 poll released Monday, will host Sterling (1-0, 1-2) Saturday at 7 p.m.

Sterling is receiving votes in the NAIA Coaches? Top 25 poll.

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