INDIANAPOLIS — Defensively, St. Ambrose has narrowed the gap between it and seventh-ranked Marian.
But that wasn't nearly enough for the Fighting Bees to spring the Mid-States Football Association crossover game upset, falling 49-14 Saturday at St. Vincent Field.
Marian scored two touchdowns off of turnovers and another following a special teams mishap, while holding the Fighting Bees to 179 total yards in its first game of the season.
It negated a strong day by the St. Ambrose defense, which forced eight punts and had a defensive touchdown of its own, but still gave up 397 yards offense.
"I thought our defense played extremely well, they came to play today," SAU coach Mike Magistrelli said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't match that with special teams and offense.
"I still think we're a good football team, I do. We only showed it in one third of the game."
The Bees also suffered a key personnel loss. Junior wide receiver Tom Macari (Jr., Plainfield South HS) was taken from the field on a stretcher after a third-period rushing attempt. His lower right leg was in an air-cast.
Marian took a 7-0 lead on its first drive of the season as Ethan Darter hit Jared Clark in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown at the 11-minute, 8 second mark of the first quarter.
The lead was doubled on a 15-yard interception return by Ryley Pease with 1:50 remaining in the quarter. Pease jumped a pass from John Benckendorf and went in untouched for the score.
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After a 1-yard touchdown run from Charles Salary made it 21-0, the Bees fumbled a punt, giving the Knights the ball at the St. Ambrose 9. Darter found Clark three plays later for another touchdown, putting Marian up 28-0 at halftime.
It's the second time in two weeks the Bees (1-1) have muffed a punt, both times leading to touchdowns.
"That's something we're searching for right now," Magistrelli said. "It's something we'll talk about as a staff, talk about with our return guys and try to figure out a solution. I did not think that was going to be a challenge for us, but it's certainly proving to be."
After Salary scored on a 71-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, St. Ambrose got on the board with a 51-yard fumble recovery by Jaxson Nelson, the first points the Fighting Bees had scored against the Knights (1-0) in nearly seven quarters after being shut out 52-0 last year.
The fumble was caused by Griffin Zajac, who had a standout performance. The preseason NAIA All-American had four tackles, two for loss, and three pass breakups to go along with the forced fumble.
"They threw at him a few times, and he came up and made plays," Magistrelli said. "Everything was contested that was thrown his way, and I thought that was a great job by him. ... He played extremely well today."
Marian scored two more touchdowns, the last one coming on a 19-yard fumble recovery by Ricky Kwak, before St. Ambrose quarterback Dino Borrelli hit J.D. Villafuerte with a 3-yard touchdown pass to end the scoring.
Borrelli was 19 of 27 for 141 yards and one touchdown while fellow QB Benckendorf was 2 for 5 for 10 yards and the interception.
Villafuerte led 10 Bees in the receiving stats with four catches for 49 yards and Garret Tiarks had nine carries for 32 yards as St. Ambrose managed just 28 yards on the ground.