With the stadium?s namesake in attendance, the Tabor College football team won its first game at Joel H. Wiens Stadium, downing South?western College, 55-28, Satur?day.
?I did think a lot about that this week,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?You have a guy that?s invested his resources and his time and energy to creating something like this?you kind of want to do something special in front of him.?
Tabor did that in the first half, scoring 34 unanswered points.
Facing winds gusting up to 30-35 mph, Tabor moved 80 yards in 13 plays on the opening drive. Offensive coordinator Billy Hickman?s team established the run, rushing the ball 10 times.
James Monroe shouldered most of load with seven runs totaling 52 yards. Monroe?s one-yard carry resulted in the first score of the game. Following the point-after kick by Sean Roth?well, Tabor led 7-0 at the 9:46 mark of the first quarter.
Following a three-and-out by Southwestern, Tabor took a 14-0 lead with 7:02 left on a 77-yard touchdown pass from Joey Erickson to Aziz Spellman-Smith.
?I told Aziz this morning, ?I?ve got a good feeling about today, I think you?re going to go off.? And he did go off,? Gardner said.
On Tabor?s next scoring drive, the Bluejays moved downfield with the passing game. Erickson found Spellman-Smith for gains of 36 and 12 yards before throwing an 11-yard strike to Duray Gardener for the score. Rothwell missed the kick, keeping the score at 20-0 with 3:03 remaining in the first period.
Tabor started the second quarter with a touchdown. At the 11:13 mark, Andrew Herard found the end zone with a two-yard run. He set up his own score, breaking loose for 15 yards on the previous play. Rothwell?s kick stretched the lead to 27-0.
Tabor prevented a Mound?builder score on the next drive, stopping Southwestern at the Bluejay 3-yard line on fourth-and-three.
Tabor returned to its scoring ways when Erickson found Herard for an 18-yard touchdown pass followed by a Rothwell kick that made it 34-0 at the half.
Tabor scored again on its second drive of the third quarter before Southwestern put up 21 unanswered points to end the quarter.
?I?ve been involved in four or five wind games,? Gardner said. ?The coin flip is usually a deciding factor early.
?When we deferred and they decided to give us the ball, I thought, ?Well, we have a decision to make in that third quarter.? Coming out of the locker room I thought taking the ball was the right thing to do.?
Tabor?s third-quarter score was set up by a Spencer Brown interception of Brad May at the Moundbuilder 47, which he returned to the 34. Tabor scored four plays later on a two-yard run by Herard, his third score. Rothwell?s kick extended the Tabor lead to 41-0 at the 8:20 mark.
Southwestern?s scoring spurt was sparked by a Bluejay turnover. Throwing into the wind near mid-field, Erickson threw his only pick as Brandon Davis snatched a pass intended for Scott Bauer and returned it to the Tabor 49.
Case Myer ran the ball three straight plays. The first, a 35-yard carry, the last, a four-yard touchdown. Austin Ledy kicked the PAT to get Southwestern on the board, 41-7, with 5:29 left.
Another turnover led to the Moundbuilders? next touchdown. Backed up at its own 15, Tabor lost possession due to a Herard fumble that was recovered by Shane Hummer at the Bluejay 19.
Myers scored again, this time on a six-yard carry. Ledy?s kick cut the lead to 41-14 at the 5:00 mark.
After Tabor failed to move the ball deep in its own territory, Myers recorded his third touchdown of the game with a two-yard blast. Ledy?s kick made it 41-21.
Tabor found the end zone again in the fourth quarter on a five-yard run by Erickson. Rothwell?s kick made it 48-21 with 12:51 to play. Erickson set up the touchdown with a 40-yard run on the previous play.
Southwestern scored its last points on the ensuring drive with May?s five-yard pass to Adam Hilker. Ledy?s PAT made it 48-28 with 9:37 to play.
Tabor crossed the goal line one more time with 6:01 to play on Erickson?s fourth touchdown pass of the game, this time to Gardener for 59 yards. Rothwell added the PAT.
For the game, Tabor gained 693 yard on 81 plays, including 323 on the ground. Southwestern ran the ball 69 times for 389 yards.
Gardener said his team needs to improve its rush defense.
?It goes back to blocking and tackling,? Gardner said. ?I hate to sound old-school, but that?s what it is. I don?t care if you run Oregon?s offense or if you?re running a version of Woody Hayes back in the ?60s, it?s the same thing.?
Erickson completed 22-of-35 for 370 yards and four touchdowns and ran the ball 11 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Spellman-Smith caught 12 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown. Gardener caught six balls for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Monroe carried the ball 18 times for 114 yards and one touchdown. Herard ran 12 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass.
For Southwestern, Myers had 226 yards on 32 attempts and three touchdowns. Cory Holbert finished with 125 yards on 24 attempts.
With the win, Tabor matched its win total over the past three seasons. The Bluejays (3-5, 3-6) host St. Mary (2-6, 2-7) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The Squires lost to Sterling 21-13 Saturday and beat Friends 38-35 in Leavenworth Oct. 30.
To watch a replay of the game go to: hillsborofreepress. com.