17th-ranked Tabor College spoiled Nebraska Wesleyan's season opener as the Bluejays converted a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter then held the Prairie Wolves at bay their final three possessions as Tabor earned the 10-9 victory on Saturday (Sept. 7) at Abel Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
Nebraska Wesleyan was not without the chances as the Prairie Wolves squandered several scoring chances with turnovers and had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns.
In the third quarter leading 9-7, NWU marched from their own 11 yard line inside the redzone and looked poised to score as Joey Jones ran down to the 6-yard line, but a hard Bluejay tackle jarred the ball loose and Tabor recovered. The Bluejays would capitalize on the mistake as they drove 76 yards in 15 plays and made a 36-yard field goal to go ahead 10-9.
The NWU defense held Tabor to two straight three and out in the fourth quarter, but a fumbled punt return with 3:25 once again hurt the Prairie Wolves. Like always, NWU continued to fight as captain Michael Huettner intercepted a pass and got the ball to the NWU 33 yard line with 2:33 to play. NWU managed one first down, but a pass attempt on 4th & 11 came up empty as the game came to a close.
NWU got on the board first as they took advantage of a Tabor fumbled punt on the opening drive. The Prairie Wolves settled for an Aaron Lorraine 30-yard field goal to go ahead 3-0. They made the score 6-0 as Lorraine connected from 29 yards out with 9:57 to play in the second quarter.
Tabor had its best drive after an interception at their own three yard line. A 40-yard pass play put the Bluejays in NWU territory then Brandon Johnson ran in around the right end from 12 yards out for the only touchdown of the game.
The Bluejays led 7-6 at halftime, but on their first possession of the second half, Hunter Hand intercepted a pass to give NWU the ball near midfield. The Prairie Wolves got to the 13-yard line but couldn't convert on third down forcing Lorraine to come in for his third field goal.
Nebraska Wesleyan dominated the time of possession at 35:01-24:59 and each team had three turnovers. The Prairie Wolves rushed for 184 yards and held Tabor to 139, as they led the NAIA in rushing in 2012 atover 330 yards per game.
Dustin Bryant had his first career 100-yard performance at NWU as the senior carried the ball 22 times for 110 yards. Joey Jones ran 13 times for 65 yards for the Prairie Wolves. Tyler Francis completed 15-30 for 140 yards with an interception and Bryant led the team with four receptions.
Tabor QB Simon McKee led the Bluejays with 36 rush yards and was 11-19 for 143 yards with two touchdowns.
Hunter Hand led the NWU defense with 12 tackles and an interception, while Taylor TeKolste added eight stops with two QB sacks.
It won't get any easier next week for the Prairie Wolves as they open Great Plains Athletic Conference play at No. 1 Morningside College, the 2012 NAIANational Runner-Up.