The 15th-ranked Tabor College football team knocked off Southwestern Saturday, 31-20.
The final score, however, was not indicative of the dominance the Bluejays displayed through three quarters of play.
Tabor built a 24-0 lead by halftime thanks to an offense able to move the ball at will. The Bluejay defense limited Southwestern to just 30 yards of offense in the first half, giving up just two first downs before halftime, one courtesy of a Tabor penalty.
?In the first half, we were able to do basically whatever we wanted,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?We were making good decisions.
?In the second half, we gave kids opportunities to play. It was sloppy at the end.?
Tabor scored once more after halftime and gave up 20 unanswered points to Southwestern in the final quarter of play.
?We have to be able to finish,? Gardner said. ?We?ve got to play with everybody who?s on the field.?
After a Moundbuilder three-and-out to start the game, Tabor pieced together its first scoring drive of the evening. The 14-play drive covered 58 yards and culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by Simon McKee. Jared Slavens? PAT kick made it 7-0 at the 7:59 mark.
Southwestern was forced to punt a second time when three plays netted -4 yards.
Tabor wasted no time in scoring, as McKee connected with Kaden Anderson for a 60-yard catch and run that went the distance on first down.
That made it 14-0, a score which held through the end of the first period. The quarter ended with Southwestern still seeking its first down.
Jared Slavens sent a 29-yard field goal attempt through the uprights to increase Tabor?s lead to 17-0 with 11:10 left in the half.
The Bluejays scored once more before intermission. The eight-play, 63-yard scoring drive was highlighted by a 37-yard pass completion from McKee to Anderson that put Tabor on the Moundbuilder 2-yard line. Rustyn Kerbs crossed the goal line two plays later for a 1-yard score, making it 24-0 after Slavens? extra-point kick. That score held to halftime.
After four consecutive punts to start the third quarter, Tabor found the end zone one final time. The drive started at the Mound?builder 27-yard line after the Tabor defense pinned Southwestern deep in its own territory and forced a punt. It took five plays for Tabor to score, this time on a 2-yard carry by Skylar Valencia. Tabor?s 31-0 lead held through the end of the third quarter.
Southwestern scored three unanswered touchdowns in the final period against Tabor?s second-string defense, including on touchdown runs of 3- and 5-yards, and on an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Tabor?s final three possessions ended with an interception, a fumble and a punt.
The Bluejays rolled up 303 yards of offense, including 162 passing yards and 141 rushing yards. Through the air, McKee was 11-for-19 for 162 yards and one touchdown. Anderson was McKee?s top target, hauling in three catches for 105 yards. Kerbs led Tabor?s ground game with 25 carries for 96 yards and one score. Gardner praised Kerbs for stepping up and filling a void.
?We dealt with some injuries,? Gardner said. ?We were deep enough to get some kids in the game, and Rustyn Kerbs played absolutely outstanding.?
Dylan Delk led the defense with six solo tackles and two sacks.
Gardner also praised his special teams unit, saying the Bluejays won the battle of field position.
?That was the thing we emphasized more than anything else,? he said. ?We emphasized field position. We emphasized doing better on the special teams. Last week I complained about that, and we played a lot better on special teams.?
Coming?Tabor (4-0, 5-1), who moved up three places to No. 12 this week, will host No. 15 Kansas Wesleyan (4-0, 6-0) Saturday for homecoming. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.