BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — St. Ambrose dug itself too big a hole to climb out of.
The Bees fell behind by 18 points through the first three quarters before attempting a comeback, only to run out of time in a 20-17 loss to Olivet Nazarene on Saturday at Ward Field.
It in some way mirrors the season as a whole for the Bees, who started out 2-0, then dropped five straight before winning two of their final three to finish 4-6.
It's the first time the Bees have had consecutive losing seasons since 1991-92, which capped a run of five straight seasons below .500.
"I'm really proud of the way we just compete to the end on both sides and kept battling and kept competing," head coach Mike Magistrelli said. "We made a run at it there at end, and it was kind of a bite of the season as a whole. We kind of put ourselves in a hole but kept battling and fighting. I think there are a lot of positives to pull from this moving forward and pull from the season."
The Bees trailed 7-0 at halftime before scoring a safety to cut the lead to 7-2. Josh Anderson kicked a field goal midway through the quarter to put the Tigers up 10-2.
The game changed late in the third quarter. Following another field goal from Anderson to put the Tigers up 13-2, Olivet Nazarene recovered the ensuing kickoff in the end zone for a touchdown to go up 20-2.
Magistrelli said it looked like the ball was going out of bounds before bouncing instead into the end zone, where Jake Klingelsmith jumped onto the football before anyone from St. Ambrose.
"Earlier in the game we had fielded one right along the sideline and his momentum took him out of bounds so we had the ball at like the 10-yard line that possession," Magistrelli said. "It was a similar kick, and it looked like the same thing was going to happen so this time we let it got but it took a weird hop and stayed inbounds.
"He went back to try and fall on it, but just as he was about to he got hit by one of their cover guys and they fell on it. Obviously a big play in the game."
The Bees rallied back in the fourth quarter, with quarterback Jake Romani throwing two touchdown passes, including one to Jake Osterberger to cut the lead to 20-17 with four minutes, seven seconds left in the game.
But the Bees didn't recover the onside kick, and the Tigers ran the clock out.
"We had a little bit of a debate on the sideline whether we kick it deep with one timeout or do we onside it? We chose to onside it and didn't get it and weren't able to get a stop there to get the ball back." Magistrelli said. "Defense played really well throughout the day, but we struggled in the other two phases."
Romani finished the day with 264 yards and two touchdowns while the St. Ambrose defense held the Tigers to 261 total yards, 174 on the ground to Erik Anderson.
The Bees came into the game averaging over 180 rushing yards per game but were held to minus 10 yards on 26 carries and were without sophomore back Baylee Hopps for most of the game after he was injured on his second carry of the day.
"I thought they had a good plan and a good scheme against us, but we weren't as physical as we had been the last few weeks," Magistrelli said. "I give them credit, but it was a little surprising to me."