With their 14-13 upset victory over eighth-ranked Benedictine College Saturday, the 11th-ranked Tabor College Bluejays were the only road team to record a win in the 2013 NAIA Football Championship Series, and will be the only one of three KCAC teams to play another game this season.
On this cold and blustery day, Tabor gave up only 13 points to a Raven offense averaging 40.7 points per game?seventh-highest in the NAIA.
?Benedictine College is a quality, class program,??coach Mike Gardner said afterward. ?We talk about one heartbeat. Sometimes I don?t always see it in practice…but on Saturdays, they seem to come together.
?It?s not always neat and tidy with this group, but they seem to find a way to make plays when they need to make plays.?
On this day, those plays happened on both sides of the ball.
?(Tyler) runs the offense like he?s supposed to; he just does a tremendous, amazing job,? Gardner said. ?I couldn?t be prouder of his ability to step up and play and do the things he needed to do.
?This kid came in as a quarterback, and then we moved him to receiver, and then he went to running back. He wasn?t even playing that much last year, and now, he?s the showpiece of a playoff win here. It?s an amazing testament to him.?
Davis?s rushing output equaled the output of Bene?dictine?s Cameron Fore, the nation?s 13th-ranked running back who had 94 yards on 19 carries.
?It?s just a blessing,? Davis said of his performance. ?Never thought I?d have an opportunity to play quarterback again after high school. It?s just been a whirlwind. It?s been a fun ride, and I?ve loved every second of it.?
Davis had kudos for his coach.
?Couldn?t ask for a better coach than Coach Gardner,? he said. ?He has all the faith in the world in me, and that means everything.
?My teammates, I couldn?t do it without them. They played their butts off. We just rallied and it feels good to get a win in the playoffs.?
James Monroe, fourth in the NAIA in rushing yards, added 75 yards on 22 carries.
Tabor?s defense also came up big on several occasions, including: a sack of quarterback Bill Noonan by Derrick Lawrence that resulted in a safety; a blocked extra-point kick by Donnell Davis to keep Tabor in front, 14-13; and a fumble recovery by Dylan Delk in the red zone with the Ravens threatening a go-ahead score in the final 2 minutes of the contest.
The game began with a defensive stand by the Bluejays. The Ravens marched 60 yards on their opening drive, advancing to the Tabor 6-yard line. But three Raven running plays resulted in minus-2 yards, thanks to tackles by James Shephard and Delk.
Tabor took over on downs at its own 8-yard line. But five plays into the drive, the Bluejays fumbled a handoff that gave the Ravens first-and-goal at the Tabor 9.
Benedictine found the end zone on the next play when Noonan passed to Jerrin Walton to take a 7-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
Tabor?s next drive ended in a missed field goal. The teams traded punts until the Bluejays orchestrated their first scoring drive late in the second quarter.
The Bluejays advanced 83 yards in 20 plays during a drive that took 8:40 off the clock. Tyler Davis carried the ball nine times for 35 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown. Jared Slavens? kick was blocked, giving the Ravens a 7-6 edge that held until halftime.
?I told (Tyler) the touchdown he scored?that effort summarized him in one play,? Gardner said. ?Just phenomenal, tenacious, tough.?
After Tabor?s first possession of the second half ended with a punt, Anthony Daniel ended Benedictine?s ensuing drive by recovering a Raven fumble.
Tabor took over at the Raven 27-yard line, but was plagued by two false start penalties.
Ryan Nelson?s pass to Scott Bauer in the end zone fell incomplete on third-and-16, but the Ravens were called for pass interference on the play.
Nelson then connected with Monroe for a 4-yard touchdown on the next play. Davis? 2-point run failed, giving Tabor a 12-7 lead with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
When Benedictine went three-and-out, Tabor had a chance to make it a two-possession game.
Starting from their own 18-yard line, the Bluejays covered 77 yards in 12 plays to advance to the Raven 5-yard line. But the drive ended when Tabor lost a fumble on first-and-goal.
The Ravens took over at their own 8-yard line. But on second down, Derrick Law?rence sacked Noonan in the end zone for a safety to boost Tabor?s lead to 14-7 with 14:54 left to play.
Tabor was forced to punt, and the Benedictine offense again took the field. The Ravens converted on a fake punt on fourth-and-7 from their own 36-yard line to keep the drive alive.
Eight plays later, the Ravens were in the end zone on a 5-yard pass?aided in part by two Tabor penalties.
The scoring drive covered 80 yards in 15 plays. But Donnell Davis blocked the extra-point kick, keeping Tabor in front, 14-13, with 7:09 to go.
Two Tabor three-and-outs sandwiched a Raven turn?over on downs. Benedictine got the ball back with 2:10 left to play.
Starting at its own 42-yard line, Benedictine gained 42 yards on four consecutive pass completions to the Tabor 16-yard line.
Fore managed a 12-yard gain to make it first-and-goal from the Tabor 4-yard line. But Nik France tackled the Raven ball-carrier for a loss of 3 yards on first down, and Noonan fumbled on the next play. Dylan Delk recovered the loose ball, enabling Tabor to run out the clock.
?Our kids just believe,? Gardner said. ?Even through all the injuries and playing with third-string quarterbacks and all that stuff, our kids just believe. It says a lot for James Monroe and Tyler Davis and those guys.
?Ben Gardner played a tremendous game, and I felt like Nik France played tremendous. Those kids just made play after play after play.?
With the win, Tabor (10-2) advances to the quarterfinal round Saturday, Nov. 30.
The Bluejays will travel to No. 2 Grand View (11-0) in Des Moines, Iowa, for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Grand View comes into the game off a 38-13 victory over Ottawa. Sterling, the KCAC?s third school in the playoffs, lost to Baker, 10-7.
?It?s not going to get any easier,? Gardner said. ?We?ve just got to keep pushing and keep grinding through this thing because there?s never been a KCAC team to win two games in the post-season, ever.
?For us to be in this situation is special to begin with. It?s one of those things that you just take with you forever.?