The University of the Cumberlands (UC) football team was on the road for their final regular season game of the season to take on the Kentucky Christian (KCU) Knights on Saturday. The Patriots were coming into the game off 2 impressive victories over UVA-Wise and Campbellsville. In both games, the Patriots dominated on the ground rushing for over 300 yards. As for the Knights, they were coming into the game on a four game winning streak and trying to take sole possession of 2nd place in the Mid-South Conference East division.
The Patriots knew this game would be a battle, and they got all they could handle escaping Grayson, KY with a 26-15 victory over KCU. It was clear from the opening kickoff this Knight team was far different than the team the Patriots played 3 years ago where they dominated KCU by a score of 74-7.
The Patriots came out showing off their much improved passing game as Jay Bright (Fayetteville, GA) connected with Willie Gibson (Abbeville, GA) on a 29 yard touchdown pass to take the early lead 6-0. KCU was not to be outdone, however, as they connected on a 20 yard touchdown pass of their own to take the early 7-6 lead. The Patriots knew going into this game the Knights defense was one of the best in the country as KCU most certainly lived up to this as they gave the Patriots fits most of the day.
In the 2nd quarter, Iquan Deed (Montezuma, GA) showed not only could he run but throw as well as he connected with Dekeldric Felton (Oglethorpe, GA) for a 24 yard touchdown pass to make it 13-7. The Patriots made sure KCU knew they had a pretty good defense themselves as they made the Knights earn every yard in the game. The Knights felt like they were in good position until the last play of the half. Senior Justin Dyer (Woodburn, KY) connected on a 36 yard field goal as time expired to put the Patriots up 16-7 going into halftime. It seemed the momentum was swinging the Patriots way.
Coming out of the half, the Patriots finally settled in and seemed to take control of the game. Jay Bright found the end zone on a QB sneak capping off a 6 play 31 yard drive giving UC a 23-7 lead. The Knights were not going to back down on their senior day. After a nice kickoff return, the Knights scored on a 6 yard pass to chip away at the lead, 23-15. The Patriots it seemed just couldn't get that key touchdown to end the game as the Knights kept fighting. The defense made that one big play they have been so accustomed to doing this season to seal it for the Patriots. After a terrible mistake by KCU making a fair catch on their own 1 yard line, the Patriots had to make a play. It was none other than Adrian Hightower (Macon, GA) to come up with an interception and take it into the red zone for the explosive Patriot offense. After another field goal by Justin Dyer, this time a 22 yard field goal, the Patriots were now up 26-15. The UC defense continued to play strong and stopped the Knights on their final drive to end the game.
"This was a good football team we played and they have done a great job building it up. We now have to get ready for the playoffs and rest up and get ready for that title run," said an enthusiastic John Bland after a hard fought victory.
The stars for the Patriots today were their defense as they had one of their best performances of the season. Once again they forced a plethora of turnovers as they had 5 on the day. They were led by none other than Weston Hazelhurst (Clinton, TN) who had 8 total tackles. He was a menace for the KCU offense as he also had 3.5 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss. The Patriots had a great performance from Jared Stippert (Clearwater, FL) earning 4 total tackles with a sack. Adrian Hightower continued his amazing season grabbing his 9th interception, which is a new single season record surpassing Brandon Goss who had 8.
The Patriots offense actually relied on its air attack today as they threw for 210 yards. Willie Gibson continued his great season as he had 3 catches for 139 yards. Senior Jay Bright went 6 for 19 for 132 yards and a touchdown. Cobb had a down game for his standards as he ran for 159 yards on 37 attempts, an impressive effort for a guy that has been the workhorse for the offense this season. This now makes 5 straight games with over 150 yards for Cobb. Overall, the Patriots ran for 221 yards and a touchdown.
Head Coach John Bland also joined the record book on what seems to be record breaking season. Coach Bland won his 56th game which surpasses former Cumberlands legend Tom Dowling. Bland hopes he can get to 60 this year as that will make him and his team NAIA National Champions.
Next week, the Patriots will have a much needed bye week. This has been a tough 10 straight weeks for the Patriots as they hope to rest up and get ready for a playoff run. There is huge uncertainty as to who the Patriots will play. One thing is clear though with a national ranking of 8 in the country and a victory today, a home playoff game seems very likely for the Patriots.
For more information on the Patriots playoff run, along with other Patriot athletics, please visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com
Article provided by Jordan Gossett, UC Multimedia & Athletic Services Graduate Assistant