Spires sour TC?s home opener



Mistakes and missed opportunities proved costly as the Tabor College Bluejays dropped their home opener to the University of Saint Mary, 34-13, Saturday at Joel H. Wiens Stadium.

?They played three very good opponents (Nebraska Wesleyan, Friends, Ottawa), they played on a less than favorable surface, and they came out here and did a great job of playing on a fast track,? coach Mike Gardner said.

?It?s always interesting to see how your kids are going to come out and play after a bye week,? he added. ?I thought we were extraordinarily rusty early.?

The Bluejays all but gift-wrapped the Spires? first score, when the long snap went over the head of punter Aaron Annis in the Tabor end zone. When Annis failed to recover the football to limit the damage to a safety, the Spires fell on it for a touchdown 6:00 minutes into the contest.

After the two teams traded possessions, Tabor drove from its own 36-yard line to the Spire 4, but after a 2-yard loss on third down, the Bluejays settled for a 24-yard field goal by Anthony Pacheco with 1:35 left in the opening quarter.

On the first play of the second quarter, Spire quarterback Mike Keese hit a wide open Fred Edison down the middle of the field for a 35-yard score. Bobby Schattle?s second PAT kick made it 14-3.

Only minutes later, after a Tabor possession stalled at midfield, Saint Mary drove 63 yards in three plays, capped by a 32-yard scoring pass from Keese to Cory Waites.

After a 41-yard kickoff return by Aziz Spellman-Smith, Tabor took possession at the Spire 40 and drove to the 9-yard line before having to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Pacheco with 8:06 left in the half.

After Saint Mary went three and out, Tabor started at its 42 and drove to the USM 23 in 12 plays. From there, quarterback Tim Rozzell connected with Duray Gardener for a 23-yard scoring pass. Pacheco?s kick made it 21-13 with 4:28 left in the half.

After a penalty on the return pinned Saint Mary back at its own 9-yard line, the Spires, helped by a 29-yard pass from Keese to Billy Owens, had a first-and-goal at the Tabor 5-yard line in only eight plays. The Bluejays stuffed the Spires there, leading to a field goal with 30 seconds to play and a 24-13 lead at halftime.

Whatever hopes Tabor had of righting the ship in the second half took a blow across the bow when Saint Mary took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards to the Tabor 4-yard line in 12 plays.

Even though the Tabor defense refused to give up the touchdown, the Spires added another field goal with just over 10 minutes left in the quarter to push the lead to 27-13.

A critical turning point occurred late in the quarter when the Bluejays took possession at their own 25-yard line and drove to the Saint Mary 5 in eight plays, including a 27-yard pass from Rozzell to Gardener that gave Tabor a first-and-goal at the 5.

But Rozzell?s next pass ended up in the hands of Saint Mary?s Cris Bash, who ran it back deep into Tabor territory. A blocking penalty brought the ball back to the Spires? 11-yard line, but Tabor had missed an opportunity to get back into the game.

The Spires nailed the coffin tight when the they got stuck at their 6-yard line on a nice punt by Annis only to have running back Kameron Ridley skirt the right side for a 94-yard jaunt to the end zone. The extra point made it 34-13 with 9:52 left in the game.

Tabor never seriously challenged after that.

?We are always seeming to play against two opponents,? Gardner said. ?We play against ourselves and we play against the other team. One these days we?ll either stop that or we?ll continue to do it and not have the success we?re looking for.?

With the loss, Tabor dropped to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the KCAC while Saint Mary posted its first win of the season to go 1-2 in KCAC play and 1-3 overall.

Coming?Tabor will travel Saturday to Ottawa University (2-0, 2-2), ranked 23rd in the NAIA.

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