Tabor comes close in opening loss to Wesleyan

Tabor College football fans witnessed an unusual occurance in recent memory Saturday night at Joel H. Wiens Stadium: An opportunity to win a ball game late.

Despite the effort, the first game in the second Mike Gardner era at Tabor ended with a 23-20 loss to Kansas Wesleyan.

?I think we did some good things,? Gardner said. ?We just didn?t do enough of them.?

Down 23-13 with 4:35 remaining, Tabor took possession at its own 28-yard line. In the next 2:39, Tabor drove 72 yards in 12 plays. Senior quarterback Joey Erickson completed passes to Aziz Spellman-Smith, Duray Gardener and Kelseis Brown.

The drive was capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Erickson to Gardener. Erickson gave Gardener a second chance on the fade route two plays after Gardener dropped a similar pass in the end zone.

After Sean Rothwell?s point-after kick, Tabor trailed, 23-20.

With one timeout and 1:54 left, Tabor elected to try an onside kick, but Kansas Wesleyan senior running back Jake Winship corralled the bouncing football at the Tabor 49-yard line.

Before Tabor?s last scoring drive, the Coyotes extended the lead to 23-13 with a 39-yard field goal by Jesus Ochoa with 4:35 left.

Tabor?s first touchdown of the season came courtesy of a Coyote mistake. Backed up at its own 12-yard line after Tabor turned the ball over on downs, Wesleyan advanced to the 23-yard line before being called for a holding penalty.

On the next play, first-and-20 from the 13, quarterback Doug Webster mishandled the snap. Artravious Addison dove on the ball for Tabor at the 9-yard line.

Three plays later, Andrew Herard swept the left side for a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 20-13 with 9:59 left in the game.

Facing third-and-24 from the Tabor 28, Webster found Ricky Roberts at the Tabor 14. An alleged out-of-bounds late hit by Tabor drew a personal foul flag, moving the Coyotes half the distance to the goal line to the Blujay 7.

?They called the skirmish on our offensive tackle, which is interesting because he wasn?t on the field.? Gardner said.

?My understanding was their guy punched our kid. Our guys just tried to get our guy away.?

On fourth-and-3, Webster threw a touchdown pass to Winship, stretching the Coyote lead to 20-6 with 4:31 left in the third quarter.

Neither offense was able to produce a touchdown in the first half, but were able to move the ball.

The Coyotes opened the game with a nine-play, 48-yard drive, but came away empty as Tabor?s defense tightened in the red zone.

After KWU missed a 27-yard field goal, Tabor drove 68 yards in 16 plays. Tabor?s first points and lead of the season came on Sean Rothwell?s 29-yard field goal with 7:39 to play in the quarter.

Tabor did not hold its lead for long. On the ensuing kick-off, KWU?s Horace Carter returned the kick 77 yards for a score and a 7-3 lead with 4:09 left.

?You can?t go out as a young team and give up a special teams touchdown and expect to win,? Gardner said.

Field goals completed the first-half scoring. Tabor cut the Coyote lead to 7-6 with a 37-yard field goal after a six-play, 57-yard drive following the KWU?touchdown.

Wesleyan went into halftime with a 13-6 lead after Ochoa converted two more field goals, one a 37-yarder the other a 21-yarder.

KWU outgained Tabor with 379 yards of total offense on 71 plays. The Bluejays netted 309 yards on 71 plays.

Erickson went 25-for-43 for 231 yards, one touchdown and an interception for Tabor.

Aziz Spellman-Smith grabbed seven passes for 89 yards, including a 42-yard reception late in the first quarter. Duray Gardener caught nine passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.

James Monroe led the Bluejays in rushing with 29 yards on 11 carries.

For KWU,?Webster finished 23-for-35 with 262 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also led KWU?in rushing with 14 carries for 60 yards. Winship gained 58 yards on 16 attempts.

Ricky Roberts led all receivers with nine catches for 98 yards.

Coming?Tabor (0-1, 0-1) travels to Lindsborg Saturday to play Bethany College.

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