Tabor upset by lowly Swedes

Tyler Davis (10)?scrambles for a 15-yard gain during the second quarter Saturday against Bethany. Davis replaced the injured Ryan Nelson at quarterback earlier in the quarter.Tabor College let a 17-0 lead slip away in the second half and suffered an upset loss Saturday at home to visiting Bethany, 24-17.
Tabor, who came into the game at 7-1 and ranked No. 7 in the nation, led 10-0 at halftime, and scored immediately after the break for the 17-0 advantage. But Bethany, who came in at 0-6 in the conference (1-7 overall), responded with 24 unanswered points to steal the victory.
?We had our opportunities, and we allowed (Beth?any) to stay in the game,? coach Mike Gardner said. ?For the last four weeks we?ve just kind of been skating by. This week, we put ourselves in a situation that we just couldn?t get out of late.?
The injury-plagued Blue?jays lost quarterback Ryan Nelson, offensive lineman Jess Croley and wide receiver, return specialist and punter Kaden Anderson during the game.
?You always get in a situation where you need depth, and if you have it you?re in good shape,??Gardner said. ?We have depth (but) we don?t have the kind of depth to where we can lose that many players and still be OK. But the guys we have that are going to be in those positions are going to have an opportunity to step up and perform.
?We have four days to try to get something put together.?
After Bethany went three-and-out to start the game, Tabor scored when Nelson threw a 19-yard touchdown strike to Scott Bauer in the end zone. The score capped a five-play, 80-yard drive; Tabor led, 7-0, after Jared Slavens? extra-point kick.
Bethany fumbled the kickoff return, and Keith Francis recovered the ball. But Tabor could not capitalize as a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Following a turnover on downs for Bethany and a Tabor punt, the Swedes drove from their 9-yard line to the Tabor 15-yard line. But Cody Godshall thwarted the threat by intercepting a pass in the end zone.
Tabor took over at its own 20-yard line. Eleven plays into the drive, Nelson left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. Tyler Davis replaced Nelson, and the drive ended when Slavens missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.
?I thought Tyler Davis did a good job under very difficult circumstances,? Gard?ner said. ?Tyler played quarterback last year for us some, and he understands the offense. When he came in, I thought he did as good a job as you possibly can.?
Anthony Daniel?s interception of a Swede third-down pass set up a 20-yard field goal by Slavens with under 3 seconds to play before halftime for the 10-0 halftime lead.
The Bluejays struck fast after halftime, scoring on the third play of the possession when Davis connected with Bauer for a 20-yard touchdown. Slavens? kick made it 17-0 with 13:51 left in the third quarter.
Then Bethany began its comeback. On the next possession, Swede quarterback Zach Dovenbarger scrambled 5 yards for the score on fourth down, and Bethany was on the board, 17-7.
A fumble by Donnell Davis on the kickoff return enabled Bethany to kick a 34-yard field goal to narrow the gap to 17-10.
The teams traded punts, but when Donnell Davis fumbled on the punt return, the Swedes had the ball at the Bluejay 22-yard line.
A pass completion put Bethany in the end zone on the next play to tie the game at 17-17 with 11:10 to play.
Pushed backward after a personal-foul penalty, the Tabor offense went three-and-out. Bethany then orchestrated its winning drive, covering 57 yards in nine plays including a 30-yard touchdown pass. After the kick, Bethany led 24-17 with 4:51 to go.
Tabor had one last opportunity to score, and prolonged its chances by drawing Bethany offsides on a fourth-and-1. But the Bluejays failed to convert a second time, and the Swedes ran out the clock.
?(Bethany) did what they needed to do,? Gardner said. ?They were able to make some plays, and we definitely helped them out.?
With the loss, Tabor dropped to 5-2 in the KCAC, 7-2 overall. The Bluejays enter a tie for 14th in the NAIA Coaches? Top 25 Poll released Monday.
Tabor will host Bethel (0-7, 1-8) Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
?Saturday?s going to be a very good football game,? Gardner said. ?There?s going to be very even talent on the field. I think (Bethel?s) going to have a real advantage. They?re going to have a quarterback who?s been playing all year, and their skill players are very good and their defense is good enough.?

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