The Bethel College football team had too many give-aways, including three mishandled kickoffs, falling to the University of Saint Mary 45-37 Saturday at Fall Fest.
It was one of the few games this season where the Threshers had more turnovers (seven) than the opponent (five). The 3-2 Spires racked up 486 passing yards as starting quarterback Josh Ervin hit 44 of 75 passes for 475 yards and five touchdowns.
Three of Bethel's turnovers came on kickoffs.
"You have to be savvier as coaches, and that's on me," Bethel coach Marty Mathis said. "We should have had more starters on special teams. We're trying to give guys chances."
The Threshers were not without offensive weapons in the game. Quarterback Bo Pratt hit 21 of 19 passes for 283 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. Stephen Scott had 26 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown.
Saint Mary was held to 72 yards rushing on 16 carries. The Spires had negative rushing yardage in the first half. Receiver Alex Gomes-Coelho had 10 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns, earning KCAC player of the week honors.
"We played a bit better (on defense)," Mathis said. "But 45 (points) is still a bit much. Our kids are fighters. God willing, they will love to get their degree. That's what they deserve with what they're doing here."
Bethel opened the game with a long drive that ended with an interception. After trading three-and-out series, Bethel's Leland Brown recovered a fumble to set up a 33-yard pass from Pratt to Rickey Rodriuez.
After a defensive stop, Scott scampered 57 yards for a Thresher score.
A pass interference call against Bethel late in the first quarter allowed a Spire drive to continue, leading to a 23-yard touchdown pass from Ervin to Vinnie Gemette.
Bethel answered with a 55-yard interception return by Josh Freeman on a pass tipped by Edmond Ngong. The Spires hit a 36-yard touchdown pass on fourth down and long from Ervin to Alex Gomes-Coelho. Bethel fumbled the kickoff back to the Spires on the BC 38, setting up a 22-yard pass from Ervin to Jarrell Young.
Bethel again fumbled away the kickoff at its own 33, but the Spires were stopped on downs at the BC 25.
Bethel got to the Spire six late in the half, but a penalty backed the Threshers up, where Max Wren missed a 27-yard field goal attempt. The Spires drove 80 yards the other way, scoring on a four-yard pass from Ervin to Gomes-Coelho with 1:32 left in the half.
Bethel got the ball to the Spire 25, where Wren nailed a 42-yard field goal attempt as the first half expired.
After trading stops in the third quarter, the Spires scored on a 24-yard Spaulding field goal. Bethel came back the other way, aided by a penalty, to score on a two-yard Scott run.
An Alshamiere Fields interception set up a 44-yard Wren field goal with 14:12 in regulation. An interception set up a 37-yard Wren field goal with 12:02 in regulation.
After Saint Mary's go-ahead touchdown, Bethel fumbled away the kickoff at the Thresher 33. The Spires missed a 22-yard field goal attempt with 2:19 remaining in regulation. The Spires Bernard Boulden intercepted the ball on the following play, setting up a touchdown with 46.7 seconds when Kalandus Hunt recovered a Spire fumble in the endzone. The Spires intercepted the Threshers next play and was able to run out the clock.
Bethel falls to 1-4, 1-2 in KCAC play. The Threshers host 3-2 Sterling at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Warriors stopped Bethany 54-27 last week.
"Our guys realize what it takes to win," Mathis said. "We just have to win now. Our guys are right there. Even at the end of that game, we have a chance to win the game. ... Just a little bit here and there. It's coming together."
St. Mary 7 21 3 14 —45
Bethel 14 10 7 6 —37
1q. B Rodriguez 33-yd. pass from Pratt (Wren kick) 10:01
1q. B Scott 57-yd. run (Wren kick) 8:10
1q. SM Gemette 23-yd. pass from Ervin (Spaulding kick) :00
2q. B Freeman 60-yd. interception return (Wren kick) 13:53
2q. SM Gomes-Coelho 36-yd. pass from Ervin (Spaulding kick) 10:23
2q. SM Young 22-yd. pass from Ervin (Spaulding kick) 8:34
2q. SM Gomes-Coelho 4-yd. pass from Mata (Spaulding kick) 1:32
2q. B Wren 42-yd. field goal :00.9
3q. SM Spaulding 24-yd. field goal 5:07
3q. B Scott 2-yd. run (Wren kick) 1:04
4q. B Wren 44-yd. field goal 14:12
4q. B Wren 37-yd. field goal 12:02
4q. S Gomes-Coelho 48-yd. pass from Ervin (Spaulding kick) 5:03
4q. S Hunt recovered offensive fumble in end zone (Spaulding kick) :46.9
First downs 29 24
Rushing-yards 16-72 32-147
Passing yards 486 283
Comp-att-int 45-81-4 21-49-4
Punts-avg. 6-40.0 6-34.7
Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-3
Penalties-yards 13-129 6-60
Time of poss. 25:18 23:01
RUSHING — Saint Mary: Amos 4-23, Gomes-Coelho 1-23, Ervin 2-(-14), Ryan 2-10, Mata 4-6, Gemette 2-1, team 1-(-5). Bethel: Scott 26-167, Hughes 2-2, Pratt 4-(-16).
PASSING — Saint Mary: Ervin 44-75-4, 475 yards; Mata 1-6-0, 11 yards. Bethel: Pratt 21-49-4, 283 yards.
RECEIVING — Saint Mary: Gomes-Coelho 10-200, Cooper 8-6, Young 7-87, Gemette 5-67, Pruger 5-61, Ryan 3-22, Bell 3-10, Nix 2-30, Amos 2-3. Bethel: Alexander 8-84, Silva 4-37, Scott 3-82, L.Pouncy 4-43, Rodriguez 2-31, Hernandez 1-6.
Missed field goals — SM: Spaulding 31 (WL), 22 (WL). BC: Wren 27 (WL).