[Football] Defense keys Bees' home-opening victory
It was what you'd expect.A sometimes sloppy, defensive battle in the cold and sleet.But St. Ambrose forced six turnovers and used a couple big plays to defeat St. Francis (Ill.) 14-6 Sunday afternoon at the St. Vincent Athletic Complex.SAU allowed just 225 yards of total offense and completely shut down USF.Even so, the Bees had to play from behind after spotting the Saints a 6-0 lead just 76 seconds into the game. After a quick 3-and-out, Jackson Hunsicker's punt was returned 71 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt was stopped.SAU's defense got SAU on the board early in the second quarter. Drew Ackman forced a fumble on a big sack and Ryan Zitkus scooped up the fumble and returned it 27 yards for a score. Tom Gillen's extra point put SAU in front 7-6.Drew Ackman forces a fumble that Ryan Zitkus returns 27 yards for a 7-6 lead (courtesy SAUtv)It remained a one-point game until the opening stages of the fourth quarter. Blake Wittman hauled in a one-handed 33-yard touchdown from John Benckendorf to extend the lead to 14-6.Blake Wittman hauls in a one-handed 33-yard touchdown pass from John Benckendorf (courtesy SAUtv)And the SAU defense, which forced turnovers on four consecutive Saint drives bridging the first and second quarters, made sure that lead held up.After St. Francis (0-2) missed a 41-yard field goal on its next possession, DeViann Titus-Porter forced a fumble on a punt return which Jalen Figgs recovered. On USF's final two possessions, SAU forced a turnover on downs and then Jett Haas sealed the win with an interception near midfield inside the final minute. It was his second interception of the game.Jett Haas with a fourth quarter interception to seal the win (courtesy SAUtv)The Bees ran the ball 50 times, with Benckendorf leading the way with 76 yards on 16 carries. T'Nahleg Hall rushed for 42 yards, Garret Tiarks had 21 yards, Brandon Baalman had 16 and Ray Bouye added nine.Benckendorf completed nine passes for 98 yards. Wittman caught four passes for 45 yards while Baalman had two receptions for 25 yards.Zitkus and Zak Alberts led the defense with nine tackles apiece. Along with the fumble recovery, Zitkus added 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack. Alberts was in on a pair of turnovers, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble in the win.Liam Kelly and Jaxson Nelson each had eight tackles and Ethan Miebach was in on seven stops. Jacob Holmes also had a sack.The Bees are off next week before beginning Mid-States Football Association Midwest League play at home against Olivet Nazarene on Mar. 6.