Last week stung. No one associated with Dakota Wesleyan University football likes losing to a rival, especially Dakota State University. All of the pent up energy manifested in an all-around dominating performance by the No. 16 Tigers in the NAIA Game of the Week against No. 8 Tabor College Saturday at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell, S.D.
The Tigers ran around, through and away from the Bluejays all game, en route to a 35-21 win, moving DWU to 1-1 on the season. The win came in the first ever meeting between the schools, helping the Great Plains Athletic Conference to a second straight victory in the KCAC/GPAC Challenge.
DWU scored 21 points before most of the fans had a chance to get comfortable in their seats, starting with an eight-play, 75-yard drive on the opening possession. Tiger quarterback Dillon Turner (Salem, Ark.) picked the Bluejays apart through the air, before sophomore running back Jonny Withrow capped off the opening drive with a four-yard touchdown.
The Tigers struck quickly on their next drive, with Turner hitting senior receiver Dustin Livingston (Irene, S.D.) for a 61-yard touchdown pass to double the lead for the home team. The next DWU drive was all on the ground, capped off by Withrow breaking through tackles and running away from the Tabor defense for a 31-yard score, his second of the game.
After Tabor got on the board on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Curry Parham an Charles Beale, the Tigers answered right back with a 12-play, 79-yard march down the field. Turner gave DWU back its three score lead with a 13-yard strike to Livingston.
Tabor added a touchdown just before the half to send the teams to the break with DWU up 28-14.
The scoring quieted in the third, but Livingston had one more electric play in his pocket. After muffing a punt return, Livingston picked the ball off the turf and sprinted 46 yards to the end zone to put DWU up 35-14 in the fourth. Tabor added a score in the final minutes, but it factored very little into the final result.
DWU outgained Tabor 509 to 322, while the Tigers finished with 25 first downs, compared to 17 from the visitors.
Livingston was a star in the receiving game as well as returning punts and kickoffs for big gains. He finished with six catches for 134 yards and two scores, while returning five punts for 105 yards and another touchdown. With junior receiver Hayden Adams not on the field, Turner relied heavily on Livingston. Turner finished 16-of-27 passing for 197 yards, adding two scores and two interceptions.
After being held to no yards on the ground last week, Turner got loose against Tabor, carrying the ball 15 times for 98 yards. Withrow got the majority of the carries in the backfield, touching the ball 15 times for 82 yards and a pair of scores. Sophomore Gaige Marshall (North Platte, Neb.) added four carries for 51 yards, including a spectacular 40-yard carry, where he rolled over a would-be tackler, got up and kept going down the sideline after everyone in the stadium thought he was down.
The DWU defense was led by sophomore linebacker Dillon Rork (Grand Island, Neb.) with 10 tackles and a sack. Rork totaled three tackles for loss, driving Tabor back a total of 13 yards.
The Tigers hit the road for the first time this season against the University of Jamestown Saturday at 1 p.m. in Jamestown, N.D.