Last season, the #7University of the Cumberlands (UC) football team was humbled as they lost out on a Mid-South Conference (MSC) Championship for the first time in 4 seasons. It was also the first time they missed the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) for the first time in 4 seasons. So when UC found out last Sunday they would be hosting a 1st Round NAIS FCS game, they were hungry and it showed with what could be their most impressive game of the season.
The Patriots looked like a team on a mission as they dominated the #9MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) Pioneers by a score of 42-24. What might have been the most impressive was how dominant UC was in all 3 phrases of the game. The Patriots also showed the rest of the nation they belong in the conversation as one of the best teams in the NAIA.
When playing in the NAIA FCS, the number one objective is to control the clock and play great defense. This was most evident today from the opening drive as the Patriots had possibly their most complete game of the year as Terrance Cobb (Knoxville, TN) topped off a 16 play, 81 yard drive that took 7:52 off the clock with a 7 yard touchdown. After MNU was forced to a 3 and out, UC came out and put together a 10 play, 70 yard drive topped off by a 14 yard touchdown run by Iquan Deed (Montezuma, GA).
The Pioneers would not back down though as they were able to put together a big play drive that ended with a 27 yard field goal to make it a 14-3 game. The Patriots would once again continue their game plan of pounding the football as they put together another 7 play, 62 yard drive as Terrance Cobb found the end zone again to put the Patriots up 21-3. Just as the Patriots were ready to go into the half, the Pioneers answered with another big play to set up a 15 yard touchdown to go into the half down 21-10.
The Patriots had some pressure coming out of the half as MNU was getting the ball back as well as the momentum. The Pioneers scored on their opening drive to bring the score to 21-17. After UC went 3 and out on their next drive, it was time for the Patriots defense to come up big. UC answered the call as they forced a 3 and out by MNU and the Patriot offense would show this was their time. After another Terrance Cobb touchdown, the Patriots were in control and never looked back. After holding the MNU offense, UC got the ball back looking to finish this game. Iquan Deed capped off a 7 play, 80 yard drive for the Patriots with another TD run to put them up 35-17. MNU wasn't ready to go home just yet as they scored on the next drive to make it a 35-24 ballgame with 10 minutes left in the game. On the following drive though, it was evident that MNU was worn down by the ground game of the Patriots as they put together a 13 play, 76 yard drive that took 7 minutes off the clock and ended with Terrance Cobb's 4th touchdown of the game to make it 42-24. An interception by Seth Brewton (Corryton, TN) with 30 seconds left capped off a near perfect game for the Patriots.
The Patriots had one of their most impressive games of the year as they were led by none other than Terrance Cobb who ran for a season high 35 attempts for 177 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jay Bright (Fayetteville, GA) also had a great day as he managed the offense beautifully and made all the right reads the whole game. Willie Gibson (Abbeville, GA) also had a great game as he had 4 receptions for 36 yards and 4 carries for 81 yards. The Patriots were as dominant as ever as they racked up 428 yards rushing and 506 total yards of offense. The key stat should be they controlled 37 minutes of the clock to the Patriots.
As for the defense, Jeremy Gardner (Frankfort, KY) stepped up and was a man on a mission ending the game with 7 tackles. The Patriots were led by Weston Hazelhurst (Clinton, TN) once again as he had 9 total tackles. Adrian Hightower (Macon, GA) picked off another pass, giving him 10 interceptions on the year. The Patriots continued their bend and not break defense as they were able to keep the Pioneers out of the end zone and are a big reason they are moving on to the next round.
"I am just so proud of these guys and how they work. They wanted to be in the playoffs and they proved it today. It was a total team effort and I am excited to see us play next week," said an ecstatic John Bland said after defeating the Pioneers.
The Patriots will find out on Sunday, November 18th who they will face in the next round, Saturday, November 24th, of the NAIA FCS when the NAIA releases the pairings on www.naia.org.
For more information on the Patriots football program along with other Patriot athletics, please visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com.