Sat, Sep. 1, 2012 - [Football]
The University of the Cumberlands (UC) football team opened up the 2012 season at home on Saturday, September 1st as they hosted Mid-South Conference (MSC) West Division foe Belhaven University. The Patriots were just 4-6 all-time against Belhaven coming into today's game.
The Patriots came out of the locker room with two things obvious from the opening kick. The defense was ready to play and the offense was a little rusty. As the rust flew off and the Pats D dominated, UC led the charge to a 21-10 win over the Blazers. The victory extends Head Coach John Bland to a 5-2 record in season opening games.
Much of the talk heading into the game was how many points could a Patriots offense score that was locked and loaded with talent. Another question being asked was how 6th year senior and leader Jay Bright (Fayetteville, GA) would look coming off of a painful ACL injury that sidelined the quarterback for the entire 2011 season. The offense never really looked like its normal explosive self as they racked up only 286 total yards of offense. Coach Bland contributed that to Belhaven's defense. "They had a lot of different looks and played tough the whole game. They were determined to take away the run. Luckily, we had some good passes to make up for it," stated Bland.
The Patriots jumped ahead in the 1st when Terrance Cobb (Knoxville, TN) found the end zone from 36 yards out on UC's 2nd possession of the game. Justin Dyer (Woodburn, KY) would add the extra point to put the Patriots out front 7-0 which would be the score at the half due to a defensive battle on both sides of the ball.
Belhaven would cut into the lead in the 3rd quarter on a 24 yard field goal by James Bryan making it 7-3 to end the 3rd. Bryan lost an opportunity to cut into the lead further as he missed a 48 yard field goal wide left.
After a 35 yard catch by Willie Gibson (Abbeville, GA), Cobb found the end zone for the 2nd time in the ballgame on a 3 yard touchdown run with 7:58 to go in the game. Dyer's PAT was good making the lead 14-3 in favor of UC. Belhaven would answer though with a 43 yard touchdown pass from Alex Williams to Kylan Pollard. The point after was good and with 5:46 left, UC's lead was trimmed to 14-10.
Jay Bright completed his best pass of the game with 4:53 left to play as Gibson hauled in a 65 yard touchdown to seal the victory for UC. Dyer's extra point was good as the Patriots notched the 21-10 "W".
Junior sensation Willie Gibson continued his climb to be UC's most decorated receiver with another solid performance with 3 catches for 105 yards and 1 TD. Terrance Cobb showed his consistency as he ran for 90 yards on 14 carries scoring 2 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jay Bright went 5 for 16 through the air for 121 yards and a touchdown. "He was a little rusty and under threw some balls he usually doesn't," said Bland. "He is aware of that and knew it was a struggle."
Coming into the season, many were worried about a defense that lost several valuable playmakers from last season's squad. The defense answered the call today in what seemed like a bend-not-break attitude of play. Although the Belhaven offense had 394 yards of total offense, the defense put pressure on them at the right time, only giving up 10 points and stopping drives that almost certainly looked destined for the end zone.
"They ran the ball well," said Bland. "Our defense was on the field for 73 snaps. We always stood tough though." There were many bright spots for the defense as Weston Hazelhurst (Clinton, TN) continued to put up numbers expected of him as he led the team with 12 total tackles (2.0 for loss) and 1 sack. Dewaun Harrison (Chickamauga, GA) came up huge for the Patriots as he seemed to be all over the field from the secondary racking up 5 tackles, but his presence was felt on the entire side of the defense.
As every football coach will tell you, the biggest improvement a team makes is from week 1 to week 2. Look for the Patriots to make a huge improvement next week as they travel to take on Cumberland University, who is coming off a big win against Kansas Wesleyan 31-10. The Patriots will play that game on Saturday, September 8th in Lebanon, TN. Bland's Patriots have a chance to start 2-0 and extend their win streak to 7. This will also be the Patriots first road game of the season. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 2:30 PM.
If you're unable to go to the game, the game will be broadcasted locally on WEZJ 104.3 FM. If you are out of the listening area, you can always catch Cumberlands football by logging onto www.cumberlandspatriots.com
For more information on the Patriots football program along with other Patriot athletics, please visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com.
Article by Jordan Gossett, University of the Cumberlands Multimedia and Athletic Services Graduate Assistant.