The University of the Cumberlands (UC) football team came into their week six showdown against the Georgetown College (GC) Tigers looking to continue their momentum they have had this season. This would also be one of the more meaningful games for the Patriots this season as they were taking on a huge Mid-South Conference (MSC) East Division foe, a local rival who was ranked #11 in the NAIA, and in a game named the Forcht Bank MSC Game of the Week.
Anytime these two teams square off, it is a showdown and this time it was no different. After a performance in which they gave up over 450 yards of passing yards and over 500 yards of total offense to Lindsey Wilson, the question by many was how the Patriots would respond this week. The defense answered the bell as on the first drive of the Tigers, UC stood up and forced a quick Tiger 3 and out in which Georgetown only established 1 yard of offense. UC then took the ball looking to jump on the board quickly. It was a rough start for freshmen quarterback Adam Craig (Jackson, TN) who was about to face his biggest challenge in his young career. Craig led a solid drive as they made it into Tiger territory before he fumbled the exchange where the Tigers would recover the fumble. The defense stood tall once again though where they put tons of pressure on Georgetown junior quarterback Neal Pawsat. The defense was playing just as good for Georgetown though as UC just couldn't get anything going against the Tigers. GC would be the first to strike though in the 2nd quarter on a 6 yard touchdown run by Zach Sowder, giving the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
The Patriots would not be outdone though as they answered right back as Terrance Cobb (Knoxville, TN) took it in to the end zone on a 1 yard run to make it 7-7 with 10 minutes to go in the half. On the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots recovered a pooch kick that gave them the ball and a ton of momentum as they took over at GC's 31 yard line. The momentum quickly vanished though as on the next play, Craig threw an interception to give the Tigers the ball back quickly. The defense came up once again though as they stopped the Tigers from putting any more points up. UC came out on the next drive and got all the way to the Georgetown 9 yard line before the Tiger defense forced a field goal by Al Merrick (Pineville, KY) to make it 10-7 Patriots. This time, the Tigers responded to the Patriots as they drove it 75 yards to the end zone to make it 14-10 GC. Then, the Patriots had what could be labeled as the major turning point of the game occur on their next drive. After a critical third down stop by the Tigers at their own 6, the Patriots looked to kick the field goal. The Tigers then called a time out in which the Patriot players changed Head Coach John Bland's mind and talked him in to going for it on fourth down. A decision that would inevitably pay off for UC as Adam Craig took it in on a quarterback keeper for 6 yards and a touchdown and a 17-14 lead going into the half.
Anyone that knows the Patriots knows they like to set the tone in the third quarter by answering right away. The story would be the same in this game as the Patriots scored on a 3 play, 50 yard drive where Adam Craig took it 40 yards to the end zone on another quarterback draw and UC would take a 24-14 lead. In the next defensive series, Jimmy Preston (Paintsville, KY) made a name for himself as he accumulated 3 tackles and a fumble recovery on the drive. The momentum looked to be all in the Patriots corner on their next drive. The GC defense though would not back down as they held their own and stopped the Patriots to a quick three and out. Both the Tigers and Patriots though would exchange a couple of three and outs until the Tigers would answer the call. The Georgetown offense was able to muster a touchdown drive as Pawsat threw a 6 yard touchdown pass to make it 24-21 Patriots with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Patriots wasted no time starting the fourth quarter out with some excitement as Craig found Iquan Deed (Montezuma, GA) wide open in the end zone to make it 31-21 with 14 minutes to go in the game. Georgetown was finally able to get some things going halfway through the 4th as they found the end zone once again on a touchdown pass from Pawsat to make it 31-28 Patriots. Coach Bland and his offense went right back at it on the next series and strung together a nice drive that ended with another huge 4th down call by Coach Bland. UC and Bland had another trick up his sleeve as he called a half back pass from Iquan Deed to a wide open Adam Craig who took it 19 yards for a touchdown and a 38-28 lead with nearly 5 minutes to go in the game.
Georgetown wouldn't back down though as they came right back at it and dissected the UC defense and drove it 75 yards for a touchdown and made it a 38-35 game with 2:37 left in the game. Georgetown opted to kick it deep on the kickoff instead of attempting an onside kick, putting it in their hands of their defense and their 2 remaining timeouts. On a huge 4th and 1 with 1:20 left and GC with no timeouts and the ball on the UC 42 yard line, Bland looked like he was ready to punt the ball away. Much like in the 2nd quarter, Bland wanted it in his offense's hand to win them the game. Adam Craig did just that as he converted another quarterback sneak that gave the Patriots the first down and their first win against the Tigers since the 2008 season. Bland commented on the decision, "I asked my offense what they thought. They told me 'Coach we can get this. Let's go for it!' So we did and it paid off."
The Patriots were led by Adam Craig on offense, who did more with his feet than his arm in this game. Craig ran for 145 yards on 20 attempts and 2 touchdowns in the victory. Craig also went 11-20 for 95 yards and a touchdown pass through the air while also catching 2 passes for 20 yards and a touchdown. The Patriot offense continued its success on the ground this season as they ran for 309 yards on 52 carries and had 424 yards of total offense.
It was really the defense's show today as they kept the Tigers in check most of the game, holding them to only 54 yards on the ground. They also forced 3 fumbles with 1 of them being a recovery. The best thing they did all game was hurry the quarterback. Pawsat was scrambling all day for the Tigers as the UC defense forced 6 sacks for -28 yards. Weston Hazelhurst (Clinton, TN) continued his excellent career for the Patriots as he led the team with tackles with 11 total tackles and 1 sack. Jeremy Gardner (Frankfort, KY) also had a great game as he had 7 tackles. It was Jimmy Preston though that provided a spark and had his best game as a Patriot with 4 tackles with 1.5 being for a loss and a fumble recovery.
John Bland was ecstatic after his team's impressive win as he commented, "The Tigers are a good football team and do a lot of things real well. We just kept fighting and really attacked them and my players really wanted to win this game and I am so happy that they were able to earn this victory."
The Patriots will now have to turn their attention to a pesky first year program in Reinhardt University. Reinhardt has had a remarkable first year in the NAIA and MSC as they are currently ranked 24th in the NAIA. The Patriots will be on the road as they are scheduled to kickoff with Reinhardt at 12:00 pm. If you are unable to attend that game you can listen locally on 104.3 EZ Country as well as www.cumberlandspatriots.com.
For more information on the Patriot football program along with other Patriot athletics, please visit www.cumberlandspatriots.com.