The University of the Cumberlands (UC) football team seemed to be a force to be reckoned with all season long. They were able to cruise through the regular season with a 9-1 record, and won their NAIA 1st round Football Championship Series (FCS) game last week against the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers in a dominating fashion. The Patriots were coming into the game looking for more redemption against the defending NAIA National Champion St. Xavier University Cougars. Last time these 2 teams played against each other, the Cougars won 66-19 in the 1st round of the 2010 NAIA FCS. With much of the same players from that team on this team, they were looking for redemption and the chance to advance to the NAIA Semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Patriots gave a valiant effort and showed the 4th ranked team in the country they were in for a dogfight, but came up just short losing to St. Xavier by a score of 35-21. This loss puts an end to what many fans will remember as one of the best seasons in Cumberlands history.
From the opening drive it looked like the Patriots would have the same fate as 2 years ago as St. Xavier marched down the field scoring on a 1 yard run, capping off a 6 play 70 yard drive taking a 6-0 lead after the extra point was blocked. The Patriots would show the Cougars they were not lying down this time and it would be a battle as they answered with a 10 play 75 yard drive with a 9 yard run by Willie Gibson (Abbeville, GA). After securing the extra point, UC took the lead at 7-6 in the first quarter. The Patriots defense would continue with their mantra of bend not break defense as they made the Cougars go the long hard way which ended with a 25 yard field goal making it 9-7 Cougars. After both defenses looked good in stopping each other, the Cougars got the ball back looking to strike. St. Xavier answered in the second quarter scoring on a 14 yard touchdown pass to go up 16-7.
The Cougars defense looked in control as they seemed to find an answer to the Patriots explosive offense. With momentum on St. Xavier's side and a chance to end it early, the Patriots found a spark coming on a 12 yard touchdown run by D 'Angelo Jordan (Jacksonville, FL) to cut into the lead 16-14 with 1:25 left in the second quarter. Also, with UC getting the ball back in the second half, it seemed momentum was on their side. Then as the Cougars were lining up for a field goal with 9 seconds left they ran a quick fake to score a touchdown putting them up 23-14 going into the half.
The Patriots came out of the second half looking to answer the Cougars but just couldn't seem to get anything going against the St. Xavier defense. The Patriots defense was holding tough as they were once again able to hold St. Xavier to a 31 yard field goal on their first drive of the half to make it 26-14. After another stop by the Cougars, they were able to find the end zone again on a 30 yard run to take a 32-14 lead as the extra point was blocked for a 2nd time. The Patriots looked all but deflated as they just couldn't get anything going against this defense. Then just as most were about to count the Patriots out, it was Terrance Cobb (Knoxville, TN) who would provide that glimmer of hope as he tore off a 60 yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 32-21. That would be all for the Patriots though as they couldn't get anything going the rest of the way. After a 4th quarter field goal by St. Xavier, they would make it 35-21 and that would be the final as the Patriots fell to the Cougars for the second time in the NAIA FCS.
Cumberlands came into the game as one of the best rushing teams in the country and that didn't stop today as they were able to run for 233 yards on 52 carries. They were led by none other than Terrance Cobb who ran for 174 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown. Willie Gibson had a big day catching the ball as he racked up 6 catches for 71 yards.
The defense was led by a surprising linebacker in Jeremy Gardner (Frankfort, KY) who has been getting better each week. This week he led the defense as he was able to rack up 8 total tackles. The Patriots also got a nice contribution from Cody Davidson (Sugar Hill, GA) who had 7 tackles with 2 sacks.
The loss knocks the Patriots out of the NAIA FCS and ends their season. Sadly, UC must say goodbye to a team that answered the bell for the Patriots and possibly went above and beyond anyone's expectations. They finished with 10 wins tying for most in school history and advancing to the second round of the NAIA FCS for only the second time in school history. This is a team that will go down as one of the best in Cumberlands football history.
For more information on the Patriot football team as well as other Patriot athletics visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com.
Article provided by Jordan Gossett, UC Multimedia and Athletic Services Graduate Assistant