Statistically speaking, the University of Saint Mary football team manhandled Nebraska Wesleyan University on Saturday.
Starting its 2012 campaign on the road, the Spires racked up 377 passing yards, 458 total yards and 20 first downs while only allowing the Prairie Wolves to amass 127 yards passing, 242 total yards and 14 first downs.
However, a poor third quarter along with several mental mistakes, including nine penalties, contributed to a 25-20 loss for USM. The Spires, 0-1, will travel to Friends University on Saturday for a 7 p.m. contest.
“Blown opportunities,” USM coach Lance Hinson said. “We missed so many opportunities to put that game away in the first half. We were up and down the field and we just didn’t convert.”
Saint Mary began the game in great fashion. Using a 12-play drive, the Spires went 78 yards and found the endzone thanks to a nine-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Keese to receiver Jerrell Young.
NWU answered to begin the second quarter with a TD but Saint Mary again put together a 12-play drive, this time for 80 yards, which was capped off by a Marcus Mata four-yard TD run.
At the half time break, USM was up 14-7.
Things fell apart in the third quarter though. Great field position allowed the Wolves to score on its first three possessions by hammering home two touchdowns and a field goal. By the end of the third, a seven-point USM lead had become a nine-point deficit.
That turned into a five-point obstacle early in the fourth after Ronnie Cooper hauled in a 54-yard TD pass from Keese with 11 minutes remaining in regulation. The corresponding field goal was blocked and returned for two Wesleyan points, placing the score at 25-20.
The five-point margin ended up being the final score after a Keese pass to Young in the back of the NWU end zone was batted down in the game’s final minutes.
“Field position was terrible for us all day and we have to get some things worked out on special teams,” Hinson said. “We had a field goal attempt blocked and a PAT blocked, which they returned for two points, and that hidden yardage just killed us.”
Keese finished the game 30-of-54 for 377 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Young was the squad’s leading receiver thanks to his 10 catches for 113 yards and a TD, while Will Ryan was the leading rusher with 34 yards on eight runs.