Tabor takeaway

Anthony Daniel (12) leaps in front of the intended Ottawa receiver to grab the interception early in the second quarter Saturday. The 12th-ranked Bluejays upset the eighth-ranked Braves, 23-20, and have received a bid to compete in the NAIA Football Championship Series. Tabor will begin postseason play Saturday at Benedictine. Kickoff is 1 p.m.The 12th-ranked Tabor Bluejays upset eighth-ranked Ottawa on the road on a blustery afternoon Saturday by a score of 23-20.
In doing so, the Bluejays received an at-large bid to participate in the NAIA Football Championship Series after finishing in a three-way tie for second place in the KCAC with a 7-2 record. Sterling finished 8-1.
?When you invest this much into something and you see positive results, and you see kids doing things athletically that are awesome and academically that are great, you don?t forget it?and that?s really kind of what it?s all about,? coach Mike Gardner said.
?For us to come in here and win on the road like this is really special.?
James Monroe fueled the Bluejays? potent running attack accumulating 253 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries. The senior running back accounted for all but 96 of Tabor?s yards in a game where all 349 yards were gained on the ground.
Tabor operated with a two-quarterback system the duration of the game, alternating between Ryan Nelson and Tyler Davis.
?We felt like that was the best thing to do because Ryan gives us something that Tyler doesn?t, and vice versa,? Gardner said.
Tabor orchestrated the game?s first scoring drive with Davis under center.
Monroe carried the ball 12 times during the drive, including two direct snaps at the end of the first quarter that gave the Bluejays a first-and-goal at the Ottawa 3-yard line.
Two plays later, Davis scored from a yard out, capping the 16-play, 78-yard drive. Jared Slavens? kick gave Tabor a 7-0 lead with 14:34 left in the first half.
Ottawa?s next drive ended when Anthony Daniel intercepted Michael Behr?s pass five plays in. Tabor took over deep in its own territory and facing a strong wind. When Tabor was forced to punt, the kick netted only 1 yard, and the Braves took over at the Tabor 22-yard line.
When the Bluejay defense kept the Braves out of the end zone, Ottawa opted for a field goal from the 6. The 23-yard kick split the uprights and brought Ottawa within 7-3 with 7:36 left in the half.
When Tabor was again forced to punt into the wind? and netted no yards?Ottawa took over at the Bluejay 23-yard line.
Once again, Tabor limited Ottawa to a field goal, this time from 39 yards out. Ottawa was within one point with 2:14 left in the half.
Tyler Davis (10)?scrambles past a would-be Brave tackler at the end of the first half Saturday at Ottawa. The Bluejays operated with a two-quarterback system, alternating between Davis and Ryan Nelson. The first half ended with Ottawa in front, 14-7, but Tabor went on to win, 23-20. The No. 11 Bluejays will play Saturday at No. 8 Benedictine in the NAIA Football Championship Series. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.Ottawa took the lead 1:30 later, when Erik Brown picked off Nelson?s pass and ran it 40 yards for a touchdown. Behr?s 2-point conversion gave Ottawa a 14-7 lead that held until halftime.
?Field position was a huge issue,? Gardner said. ?We just kind of battled through the second quarter. We made some plays that weren?t favorable, and we made some plays that were.?
After both teams traded punts to start the second half, Tabor launched a scoring drive lasting nearly 9 minutes that saw both Nelson and Davis at quarterback.
Behind the solid running of Monroe, Tabor marched 75 yards in 18 plays, scoring on a 7-yard run by Jonah McKee. Slavens? kick tied the game at 14 with 1:35 to play in the third quarter.
But Ottawa again had good field position after a 55-yard kickoff return to the Tabor 29-yard line. The Braves were in the end zone 20 seconds later when Luke Lundy scampered in for the score on the first play of the drive.
The extra-point kick was blocked after a botched snap, giving Ottawa a 20-14 lead.
Tabor responded by marching 70 yards in 12 plays. Monroe polished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run with 6:32 left in the game. Slavens? kick gave Tabor a 21-20 advantage.
With momentum in Tabor?s favor, the Bluejay defense forced an Ottawa three-and-out. But when Tabor also went three-and-out, Ben Gardner?s punt pinned the Braves at their own 4-yard line with 1:50 to play.
On third down, Behr?s pass from the end zone fell incomplete. But with no eligible receivers in the vicinity, it was ruled a safety, boosting Tabor?s lead to 23-20 with 1:19 to go.
The Bluejays recovered Ottawa?s onside kick and ran out the clock for the victory. It was Ottawa?s first loss to a KCAC foe at home since 2007.
?The one thing about today?s game, it?s just a culmination of four years of recruiting and trying to keep retention and keeping kids focused and selling them on something other than just trying to be competitive,? Gardner said.
?It?s just a really nice reward for our kids and the season that they?ve had and what they?ve done.?
Gardner praised his team?s effort on both sides of the ball.
?Defense played pretty well,??he said. ?I couldn?t be prouder of them, and our offense, we just did what we did. We wore their defense out. That?s what we did.?
The win bumped Tabor from No. 12 to No. 11 in the final NAIA Football Coaches? Top 25 Poll released Sunday.
Ottawa, meanwhile, dropped from No. 8 to No. 15.
Tabor and Ottawa will join conference champion Sterling (tied for No. 13) among 16 NAIA teams to compete in post-season play.
Tabor (9-2) will play at No. 8 Benedictine (10-1) at Larry Wilcox Stadium in Atchison Saturday at 1 p.m.
Tabor ranks first in the NAIA in total rushing offense with 3,694 yards. Benedictine?s offense ranks seventh in scoring, with an average of 40.7 points per game.
The game will feature two of the NAIA?s top running backs in Monroe, fourth at 152.2 rushing yards per game, and Benedictine?s Cameron Fore, 13th at 122 yards per game.
Monroe tallied 1,674 rushing yards on 330 carries during the regular season to rank third in the NAIA. Fore ranks 12th with 1,342 yards.
This will be Tabor?s first post-season appearance since the 2005 Bluejays?also under Gardner?s direction?made it to the second round of the FCS.

Written By
More from Janae Rempel
Bluejay softball goes 2-5 for the week
The Tabor College softball team slipped to 9-14 for the season after...
Read More