Broncbusters fall to Blue Dragons

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Commnity College running back Jordan Ford, right, takes a hand off from quarterback Mike Irwin Sunday at Hutchinson.

HUTCHINSON - Mike Irwin had been waiting patiently for a chance to play. At Oregon he was the fourth stringer behind future first-round draft pick Justin Herbert. Then, when he signed with Garden City, he lost the starting job to Iowa State transfer Devin Larsen. But on Sunday, he finally got his shot, against the top team in the country in their den. Unfortunately, the results left a lot to be desired.

CJ Ogbonna threw for 140 yards and two touchdowns, the Broncbuster ground game, which had been one of the best in the nation all season, was limited to just 31 yards, and the top-ranked Blue Dragons beat No. 3 Garden City 23-7 at Gowans Stadium.

"I thought our offensive line played pretty well today," Head Coach Tom Minnick said afterwards. It really came down to the wind, and the quarterback play. There were plays that we just didn't make."

It was the Broncbusters first loss in Hutchinson since Oct. 11, 2014 when Alvin Kamara ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-14 blowout. It also put an end to Garden City's hopes of playing in June's National Championship Game."If we just made plays in the passing game, we would have been in the mix," Minnick explained. "That flat out didn't happen."

Minnick was not pleased walking back to the locker room at the break, especially after his team squandered several opportunities to take the lead in the second quarter. After slicing a 10-0 deficit to three six minutes into the period, the Broncbusters closed the half with three straight three-and-outs. It was frustrating considering the road team had a stiff 40 mph wind at their back.

"We just didn't execute," Minnick said. "This game came down to quarterback decisions. Like on a screen pass, if he hits the guy on the screen, he walks in for a touchdown. That's why there's a first-string quarterback and a second-string quarterback. Because at practice, you see who can do things under pressure and get things done."

This wasn't all on Irwin by any stretch because he didn't have much help. Wide receivers Jalen Williams and Scieneaux Jarmon combined for four backbreaking drops, the running game never got going, and the defense, which played well most of the day, had two coverage busts that led to Blue Dragon scores.

"We just hurt ourselves all day," Minnick stated. "Our offense put our defense in a bad spot the entire game."

Marching into the wind in the opening frame, the Broncbusters did nothing on their first drive of the game. And on third-and-8, Irwin was swallowed up by Jalen Moss for a six-yard loss. That set the Blue Dragons up with a short field, which eventually led to Alfonso Deleon's 34-yard field goal that put Hutchinson up 3-0. The three points was a win for Garden City, which dodged a major bullet when Tye Edwards fourth-down touchdown run was wiped off the board because of a holding penalty.

"Mike has to get better," Minnick said. "Especially if Larsen can't play. The whole offense has to get better."

On Hutchinson's second offensive possession, Drew Dallas's team took advantage of a rare defensive miscue when Ivan Thomas beat Exzavieus Roberson for a 48-yard touchdown down the middle of the field that put the Blue Dragons up 10-0 with 5:55 remaining in the first.

"The defense kept us in the game the whole time," Minnick explained. "There were a couple of big plays, but for the most part, they did their job."

Hutchinson had a chance to add to their lead late in the first quarter. But after their drive stalled at the Garden City 29, Deleon's 48-yard field goal was blocked by Raymond Cutts. It meant very little in the grand scheme of things because the Broncbusters gained just seven yards on their ensuing possession to close the quarter.

"In games like this, you can't make mistakes, period," Minnick said emphatically. "We made way too many. And it was just the little things."

The Broncbusters caught another break in the second after Joe Carol's punt sailed backwards and lost 25 yards, setting the Blue Dragons up at the Garden City 13. Then on third-and-5, Antoine Davis was called for a questionable pass interference penalty in the end zone that gave the home team first-and-goal from the 2. But the Blue Dragons short circuited after that. Back-to-back false start infractions pushed them back to the 16, and then on third-and-goal, Ogbonna's pass to the end zone was knocked away by Davis. The following play, it was the sophomore corner again, this time blocking Deleon's 32-yard field goal to keep it a 10-point game.

The offense, at least for a brief moment, seized the opportunity.

Facing a third-and-12 from their own 28, Irwin launched a bomb down the middle that Khamran Laborn plucked out of the sky for 63 yards, setting the Broncbusters up first-and-goal at the nine. Three plays later, Irwin went back to his trusty target on a slant for an eight-yard touchdown that pulled the brown and gold within three, 10-7 with 9:20 left in the second.

But the Broncbusters did nothing the rest of the half. In fact, they gained just one yard of total offense over the final seven minutes of the quarter, ending the second with a pair of Jarmon drops. Meantime the Blue Dragons added to their lead late in the half when Ogbonna found Thomas again for a 12-yard score, capping off a five-play, 64-yard drive that gave Hutchinson a 17-7 advantage.

"When you missed chances like we did in the second quarter, it's frustrating," he said.

The third quarter wasn't much better.

Garden City picked up just one first down during that 15-minute stretch, completely blowing a chance to get back in the game with the wind behind them. Irwin missed Jarmon on a third-and-3 at the Hutchinson 36 with six minutes remaining after the Broncbusters were setup with great field position following Caleb Brickhouse's short punt. On their next possession, Carol bobbled the snap on a fourth-down kick, giving the Blue Dragons the ball at the Garden City 26. And to top it off, Irwin was sacked for the fifth time on the Broncbusters last possession of the quarter, ending a stretch where Garden City ran 15 plays for a miniscule 44 yards.  

"Our offense just didn't do anything," Minnick said.

Yet the game was still hanging there in the final quarter. Trailing by 10 though, the Broncbusters could never get out of their own way. A punt followed by a pair of fourth-down failures put Minnick's squad on life support. Then the Blue Dragons finally pulled the plug when Anwar Lewis galloped 50 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with 5:49 to go.

"It just wasn't a good day," Minnick said.

The Broncbusters totaled just 248 yards of offense and were 4-of-17 on third down, losing for just the second time in their last 15 true road games. Irwin finished 22-of-48 for 217 yards, Jordan Ford had 11 carries for 55, and Laborn caught eight balls for 131 yards and score.

Ogbonna was 9-of-20 for 140 yards and two scores for Hutchinson, which improved to 4-0 for just the ninth time in program history. Edwards tallied 157 yards on the ground, becoming just the eighth rusher in the last 50 games to eclipse the century mark against Garden City's defense.

Up next for Garden City will be a home contest against Dodge City at 7 p.m. on Saturday.