Blue Jays give up early score, but blitz Eureka

One play, one touchdown, one piping mad coach.

Just 17 seconds into the Westminster College Blue Jays' UMAC game against Eureka (Ill.) College on Saturday and the visiting Red Devils had already produced all three of those things.

Eureka's offense ran a post route up the middle of the field that Westminster had prepared for at length and yet still couldn't stop.

"It's nothing that we hadn't seen all week and they just hit us with a big one real quick, and just kind of took the wind out of our sails," Westminster head coach John Welty said.

The Blue Jays responded. Then the Red Devils answered back. But that would be all the scoring Eureka would be doing.

Westminster used opportunistic defensive takeaways to shut Eureka out over the final three quarters and win the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference matchup 34-14 at Priest Field.

Following the 64-yard touchdown pass from Eureka sophomore quarterback Sam Durley to junior receiver Wes Schmidgall, Welty and his staff went to their original plan -- make the pass-happy Red Devils try and run the ball.

"They're not a running football team and they were looking to beat us running the ball," Welty said. "But eventually our offense got rolling and our defense got some opportunistic stops, and then they just took it over."

The Blue Jays (3-2, 1-1 UMAC) turned the game in their favor when sophomore defensive tackle Taishon Fultz recovered a high shotgun snap to Durley on a fourth-and-9 early into the second quarter.

Three plays later, Westminster senior quarterback Tyson Kankolenski connected with junior receiver Carl Givens on a 38-yard touchdown. It was the first of three touchdowns between the two on the day and the second of four touchdown passes for Kankolenski overall.

"We could have put more points on them, but we're not going to rub it in their faces," Welty said. "But Carl can have his way with anyone he wants to when he sets his mind to it."

And when the passing game wasn't clicking, the Blue Jays ground out an effective running game behind juniors Michael McKelvey and David Love, and sophomore Chris Starkey.

Starkey started the season on the practice team but proved so effective that Welty couldn't think of any reason not to get him some game action. The three backs combined for 232 yards on 32 carries against Eureka (0-5, 0-2).

"It was really nice to see McKelvey break a couple, Starkey break a couple and David Love as well," Welty said. "The way the committee worked today, it would seem wrong to mess with it now, right?"

The win improved Westminster to 3-0 at home this season as it gets set to head to Minnesota next weekend to take on Martin Luther, one of three teams picked to finish ahead of the Blue Jays in the UMAC preseason poll.

"It's tough to play up there and they play hard at home, so we'll have our hands full," Welty said. "It's nothing we can't handle; we just have to be mature and if we play the way we just played, we'll be fine."

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