Reivers capitalize on Broncbuster mistakes; win defensive struggle

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Garden City Offense

Garden City Defense

Iowa Western Offense

Iowa Western Defense

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Council Bluffs, IA ( there’s one thing we’ve learned after six games is this: the Broncbusters defense is for real.

Unfortunately for Coach Jeff Sims and company, their offense lags far behind.

For the third time in their last four games, Garden City was held under 300 yards, while Iowa Western capitalized on numerous Broncbuster mistakes in a 20-7 victory Saturday afternoon at Titans Field.

“It’s unfortunate that we lost this game because our defense played so well,” Sims said afterwards. “I believe we have a defense that could win this conference. But it’s frustrating because we couldn’t generate anything on offense.”

And it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities.

Garden City (1-5, 1-2) ran more plays (78-70); had more first downs (13-10) and had more total yards (243-229). Still the brown and gold entered the red zone only once. The result: a turnover on downs; although that series didn’t end without controversy.

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Trailing 7-0 with 3:40 remaining in the first half, the Broncbusters were facing a third-and-10 at the at the Iowa Western 12-yard line. Jayru Campbell, who misfired on 23 of his 37 throws, lofted his prettiest pass of the day: a back-shoulder fade into the left corner of the end zone that Jeff Thomas snagged away from DA Williams. But the referee ruled that Thomas did not get one foot inbounds when it appeared he did.

“Those things happen in the course of a game,” Sims said. “We just couldn’t score enough on those opportunities.”

On the very next play, Campbell’s pass to Venus Triplett was almost intercepted in the end zone ending the threat.

“We had so many chances, I can’t begin to tell you,” Sims said. “We have good guys on offense, but we just have no consistency on that side of the ball.”

The defense was another story.

At one point during the game, the Broncbusters forced the Reivers into seven straight 3-and-outs. They also forced two turnovers, but failed to capitalize on either one: a Lonnie Johnson pick in the first half and a Jonathan Cook strip sack that Jeremy Faulk recovered. The first drive ended with a four-and-out; the other was halted with an interception by Detric Bing-Dukes.

But the biggest mistake belonged to the offense late in the first half. It definitely could have been avoided.

After Iowa Western (4-2, 1-0) punter Bobby Patterson tied the school record with an 80-yard punt that pinned the Broncbusters inside their own 5-yard line with less than a minute to play in the second quarter, Garden City decided to roll the dice. And it appeared the high-risk, high-reward approach would work following Campbell’s 15-yard completion to Thomas. But on the next play, the freshman quarterback was intercepted by Ben Garlock, who returned it to the Garden City 10.

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“It should have been 7-0 going into the locker room; period,” Sims said.

Instead, Brock Larson, who entered the season as the Reivers’ third-string quarterback but was thrust into duty because of starter Zach Martin’s lingering collarbone injury, connected with Malcom Moore on a 10-yard strike that gave Iowa Western a 14-0 edge going into the break.

“Those are the things that continue to hurt us,” Sims said dejectedly. “I know how to fix our offense, I just don’t know if I can fix it by next week.”

That hole got even bigger in the third, when Patterson drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the Reivers a 17-0 lead.

That’s when Campbell engineered his most impressive drive of the day.

When Garden City got the ball back, the freshman went to the air, completing 3-of-4 passes for 49 yards, including a 25-yard strike to Thomas and a 24-yard scoring toss to Eddie Morris on fourth-and-14.  Kevin Olney’s extra point pulled the Broncbusters to within 10 with 6:39 to go in the third.

Most would think that was plenty of time to get back in the game. And the Broncbusters had six more possessions to try and make something happened. Four of those ended with a punt; the other two: an interception and a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter.

“It obviously needs to be fixed,” Sims said referring to his offense. “We’re doing everything right as a program. We’re going to class; we’re doing the work. We just to get everyone on the same page, and it’s a process.”

Iowa Western added a late 27-yard field goal by Patterson to make the final tally 20-7.

The Reivers scored the game’s first touchdown in the opening quarter when Jon Nzombo powered in from two yards out, capping off two-play 59-yard drive that was aided by a 14-yard pass interference call on Johnson in the end zone.

Campbell threw for 159 yards and a score, but was picked off three times. He added 24 rushes for 45 yards, while Triplett carried the ball 16 times for 37. Thomas caught a team-best six balls for 81 yards.

Larson completed 11-of-22 passes for 87 yards, a touchdown and a pick for the Reivers. TCU commit Taj Williams caught only two passes for seven yards. He was blanketed most of the day by Johnson.

Notes: Iowa Western won the game despite being completely shut down on the ground (47 carries for 99 yards; an average of 2.1 yards per carry)…The Busters lost their fifth straight game for the first time since 2011; it’s also their worst start since that year when they began 1-7…The three Broncbuster turnovers brings their season total to 22 (they’re now minus-1 in that department)…Garden City was just 2-of-16 on third down…Campbell was sacked five times…Garden City has scored just 21 points over their last 10 quarters…It’s the second straight week the Broncbusters lost a game after holding their opponent to less than 300 total yards

Next up: Garden City vs. Hutchinson-Saturday, October 10-6:30 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. kick on 99.9 FM ESPN Radio; and tuneinradio app: KWKR