QUINCY -- The Quincy University football players are learning how slim their margin for error actually is.
Against quality opponents, it's pretty miniscule.
Despite being able to run the ball against the nation's No. 1-ranked defense and gaining momentum with a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter, the Hawks weren't consistent enough to rally in the second half of Saturday's 26-10 loss to Davenport at QU Stadium.
"We're trying to hold the younger guys accountable and stop making mistakes more than one time," junior left tackle Justin Rosendahl said. "There's freshmen mistakes and then there's discipline mistakes. Right now, it gets in the thick of the game and we start making both of those.
"You can't get mad at someone for a freshman mistake when they haven't seen something before. But when you're making those discipline mistakes, it starts to get frustrating."
The Hawks (1-3) didn't make many undisciplined errors, but they made just enough to stall drives.
Quincy started three drives in Davenport territory and two drives outside its own 35-yard line. Twice, those drives ended in three-and-outs. Only one produced a touchdown.
The Hawks also went 1 of 12 on third down. They needed 10 or more yards to convert five of those, and had only two third-down attempts of 4 or fewer yards.
"We have to be better when we have opportunities," QU coach Gary Bass said. "We have to be better on first down. When you have a negative play on first down that puts you behind the sticks, now you're asking a freshman quarterback to play outside of his comfort zone.
"We just have to be more consistent."
The defense gave the Hawks plenty of opportunities to do that.
A week after allowing more than 400 yards of total offense and more big plays than you can count of both hands, the Hawks buckled down. They held the Panthers out of the end zone of the first series of the game despite the fact Davenport had first and goal at the 2-yard line.
The Panthers (4-0) faced first and goal inside the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter and were forced to kick a field goal.
"We're a bend-but-don't break team," said QU senior linebacker Cody Leonard, who had 19 tackles. "There are a lot of good things to pull out of this game, and the effort was there. A couple big plays hurt us, but we didn't give them anything easy."
Had it not been for a lost fumble on the 10-yard line on a second-down run by Chris Brinson with 45 seconds remaining in the first half, the Hawks would have trailed by only four at halftime. Instead, they were down 13-3 after the Panthers turned the miscue into a quick touchdown as Haiden Majewski tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brendan Boman.
Even so, the deficit didn't seem daunting.
The Hawks' Sa'hron Cunningham returned the opening kick of the second half 49 yards to give QU the ball at the Davenport 42-yard line. Four plays later, including a 17-yard run by quarterback Tionne Harris on third and 9, the Hawks scored on Harris' 6-yard run to make it 13-10.
Quincy had 22 yards rushing on the drive, 2 more than Davenport had been allowing per game.
"That's what you see when we do our jobs," Rosendahl aid. "That's what you see when we're disciplined and we're focused and we give elite effort. That's what we're capable of.
"We have to do a better job of piecing it together throughout the whole game and not just in high-pressure situations."
Although the Hawks finished with 119 yards rushing -- Davenport had allowing just 62 total yards on the ground through three games -- four of their final five drives lasted six plays or fewer and two ended with interceptions.
QU finished with just 194 yards of total offense as Harris rushed for 111 yards and completed 11 of 25 passes for 75 yards.
"There are some things we will get at," Bass said. "The kids are fighting. Their heads are up. There are things they know we have to get better at, and I think they're ready to be better. They're ready to win and we're not far from doing that."
Davenport 26, Quincy 10
17 First downs 11
45-125 Rushes-yards 32-119
226 Passing yards 75
351 Total yards 194
16-28-1 Comp-Att-Int 11-25-2
1-1 Fumbles-lost 2-1
10-81 Penalties-yards 4-64
Davenport 7 6 7 6--26
Quincy 0 3 7 0--10
D--Keion Powers 2 run (Chris Ahmed kick), 2:12
Q--Michael Klotz 43 FG, 11:01
D--Brendan Boman 7 pass from Haiden Majewski (kick failed), :32
Q--Tionne Harris 6 run (Klotz kick), 13:34
D--Michael Catching 64 pass from Majewski (Ahmed kick), 3:41
D--Ahmed 22 FG, 12:46
D--Ahmed 27 FG, 9:02
RUSHING--Davenport, Seth Acda 18-59, William Gist 9-54, Powers 2-13, Majewski 9-3, Blake Daniels 2-2, Catching 4-(minus 5). QU, Harris 18-111, Chris Brinson 9-9, Darries Rainey 2-5, Sherond Boyd 1-(minus 1), Chris Poindexter 1-(minus 2), Shane Barrett 1-(minus 3).
PASSING--Davenport, Majewski 16-25-226-1, Blake Daniels 0-2-0-0, QuVaughn Jones 0-1-0-0. QU, Harris 11-25-75-2.
RECEIVING--Davenport, Nate Courtier 5-49, Deondre Moore 4-62, Gourney Sloan 2-21, Powers 2-12, Catching 1-64, Acda 1-11, Boman 1-7. Quincy, Brinson 3-24, Poindexter 2-8, Blake Huskey 2-5, Barrett 1-16, Gabriel Bryant 1-9, Paul Sullivan 1-8, Adam Hillis 1-5.