Blue Jays run out of time vs. Panthers

It took about 58 minutes and 2 seconds for a game that looked to be in hand to get out of hand, and then back again.

When Westminster College freshman quarterback Scott Rodgers scrambled to his right and had the ball stripped from him by the Greenville (Ill.) College Panthers, thus ending a contest that left the Blue Jays with a lot more questions than they can answer.

Westminster's methodical second-half comeback came up short for a second consecutive week as the Blue Jays dropped their homecoming game to Upper Midwest Athletic Conference opponent Greenville 30-21 on Saturday at Priest Field.

The largest question mark that looms for the Blue Jays (3-4, 1-3 UMAC), who have lost two straight, is what to do about the situation at quarterback. Westminster head coach John Welty refrained from calling his current predicament those two dirty little words -- quarterback controversy -- but he acknowledged the fact that a path is going to need to be taken soon when it comes to whether Rodgers or senior quarterback Tyson Kankolenski will guide his offense.

"Right now we want to wait and see, and talk it over as coaches," Welty said. "We look at it as what is the best thing for our football team, and if that means leaving Tyson in at quarterback or bringing in Scott, we'll have to wait and see."

As he did last week, Welty called up Rodgers -- from Centralia -- to try and get something, anything, going for his offense after a stagnant first-half output saw the Blue Jays down 17-0 at halftime.

"We've talked about changing the paradigm here," Welty said. "I'm proud of the guys because we could have said the heck with it and given in down 17-0, but they just kept fighting."

Rodgers was 12-of-19 for 132 yards, while Kankolenski completed 4-of-7 passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.

The Blue Jays took the opening kickoff of the second half down to the Greenville 23-yard line by virtue of a 54-yard return by senior cornerback Kelvin Williams on a short kick. Despite losing six yards on a two straight plays, a 30-yard pass from Rodgers to senior receiver Greg Finger put the Blue Jays at the Panthers' 1, leading to a touchdown run by sophomore running back Chris Starkey on the next play.

Still, Kankolenski's day wasn't done. Before taking over as the starter at quarterback, Kankolenski was a productive slot reciever. The Blue Jays' second touchdown drive was highlighted by an incomplete pass from Rodgers to Kankolenski on third down that drew a pass interference.

Kankolenski followed with a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later to bring the Blue Jays within 20-14. He ended up throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and had 46 yards on three catches.

"We gave him (Rodgers) more opportunities to throw than Tyson and that was our package," Welty said. "And the reason we did that is because we like to have Tyson out there at wide receiver

Greenville (5-3, 4-0 UMAC) used a steady dose of shotgun runs up the gut to dominate the clock and kill any momentum Westminster could muster. The Panthers rode a pounding running game to first place in the conference coming into the game and didn't look to showcase anything to deter from that, winding up with 297 rushing yards as a team.

Greenville senior Anthony Ambers, the leading rusher in the UMAC, started the scoring for the Panthers with 1-yard plunge five and a half minutes into the first quarter. Ambers only carried the ball nine times for 67 yards, giving way to freshman Justin Honeycutt. The 190-pound first-year player got the tough yards usually reserved for Ambers, finishing with 115 yards.

For all of Westminster's inconsistency and spotting sizeable leads and coming up short on the road, this is the first time this season that they have suffered that fate at home. Similar conclusions happened against Minnesota-Morris in week two and at Martin Luther last weekend.

And for all the questions that still remain for his Blue Jays, Welty is convinced that coming out on the good end of one of those rallies is something his team will need to do. And soon.

"Honestly, we need a comeback win against a quality team like that to get us over the hump," Welty said. "We've been so close that we can taste it, but we're just not there yet and it's going to come if we just keep plugging away."

Westminster travels to Minneaplis to face Northwestern (Minn.) at the Metrodome for the UMAC's annual Dome Day at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

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