LINCOLN, Neb. -Westminster football opened their season on the road at Nebraska Wesleyan, eventually falling 49-35 in an offensive battle.
"We look at these opening games as a way to identify our strengths and weaknesses," said Westminster Head Coach John Welty. "We saw a lot of good things today from both our returners and our newcomers and we have a lot to be excited about."
The first quarter was dominated by the Prairie Wolves who scored twice within the first eight minutes of the game. The first score was a long 51-yard pass completion and the second was a blocked punt which was returned for a touchdown.
After falling behind 14-0 early, the Blue Jays started to find their place on both sides of the field in the second quarter. With 3:23 remaining in the second quarter, the Blue Jays started their scoring drive, which would finish at five plays for 42 yards in just over two minutes. At the 1:21 mark, redshirt freshman quarterback Wyatt Elis completed a 27-yard pass to freshman Travion Mosby, who reeled in the catch while falling out the back of the endzone, managing to land the catch inbounds.
After the Blue Jay defense held the Prairie Wolves scoreless so far in the quarter before Nebraska Wesleyan completed a 52-yard pass for a touchdown to close the half, leading Westminster 21-7.
"We had some growings pains in the first half, but ending that half was still a good feel for us," said Welty. "We did a lot of good things from our young offensive line and Travion had a great half."
The Prairie Wolves came out strong in the third quarter, scoring on their first two drives to take a commanding 35-7 lead. Despite the deficit, the Blue Jays continued to stay in the game, finishing the quarter with another touchdown. On a second and 10, Ellis found veteran receiver Alec Fleetwood for a 53-yard touchdown. The Blue Jay drive lasted 3:42 and went 42 yards on six plays.
To open the fourth quarter, both teams scored in their first two drives. After Nebraska Weseylan completed a 13-yard pass for a touchdown, Westminster answered with a touchdown of their own. This time, Ellis completed a pass to Jamal Martin with 9:22 left to play.
Nebraska answered with another touchdown of their own, making the score 49-21 with just under seven minutes remaining.
Martin started the Westminster drive with a 42-yard rush to the Blue Jay 43 yardline. Ellis completed his next three passes to Mosby, with the third resulting in Mosby's second touchdown of the day to cut the Praire Wolf lead to 49-28.
Not done scoring for the day, Westminster's next drive resulted in yet another touchdown. After two rushes from DeQuintin Smith, senior quarterback Bryce Moorman completed a 20-yard pass to Charles King to bring the score to 49-35.
Westminster regained possession after Brannley Miller forced a fumble, recovered by Anthony Fairchild, to give the Blue Jays another chance with 39 seconds to play. Despite a would-be catch from Matt Huffman, it was called back which would end the game at 49-35.
Ellis went for 259 yards on 17-28 passing, including four touchdowns and one interception. Kalyn Davis picked up where he left off last season, rushing for 142 yards on 20 attempts. Mosby led the squad in receiving yards with 125 and two touchdowns, followed by 75 yards from Fleetwood. Six different Blue Jays recorded receiving yards on the day.
Ben Heimann led the Blue Jay defense in tackles with five solo, while Logan Decker proved to be a terror on the defensive line with 2.5 sacks on the day. Ben Holt also recorded a sack. Easton Hanks grabbed the lone Westminster interception of the day. Combined, the Westminster defense held Nebraska Wesleyan to -6.5 yards rushing.
Westminster opens at home with the second and last nonconference matchup of the year Sept. 14 against Millsaps. Kickoff is set for noon at Blue Jay Stadium.
"I'm disappointed with our loss, but we had a formidable opponent and we were able to develop and learn a lot about oursevles," said Welty. "The scary thing is, we're going to get better. The potential to be really good is something we saw today."