The University of the Cumberlands (UC) football team came into their Top 25 showdown against Reinhardt University (RU) riding a huge wave of momentum. After defeating the Georgetown College Tigers last week 38-35, the Patriots looked to continue their quest for an undefeated season. The challenge would be tough as 1st year program and 19th ranked RU came into the game looking for their biggest win in school history. It would take an awesome performance from the Patriots to come out victorious.
From the opening kickoff this game would be different for the Patriots. Much of the time, the Patriots come out early and set the tone for the ball game. The Eagles would not let that happen as they gave the Patriots offense fits all throughout the 1st quarter, refusing to let UC get anything going offensively. The good news for the Patriots though was their defense was going toe to toe with RU as they were stopping their offense from doing anything throughout the first. After the first quarter it was a rare 0-0 score heading into the 2nd quarter of play.
The Patriots were finally able to get moving offensively to start out the second quarter as it was Adam Craig (Jackson, TN) who connected with D'Angelo Jordan (Jacksonville, FL) for a 78 yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots the 7-0 lead early in the second. On the next drive though, RU was able to finally figure out the Patriots defense, but their bend-not-break mentality showed up once again as they held the Eagles to a field goal to make it 7-3 Patriots with 7 minutes to go in the 2nd. After a turnover by the Patriots, the Eagles were able to capitalize to make it 10-7 Eagles at halftime.
Much of the season the Patriots have been impressive with their halftime adjustments that have led to big time scoring drives and really taking the heart out of their opponents. This was not the case today as the Eagles showed they were not afraid of the explosive Patriot offense. The Eagles defense seemed to give the offense fits in the third quarter much like they did in the 1st quarter. The tables seemed to be turned on the Patriots as RU scored on a nice 11 play, 95 yard drive late in the third quarter that was capped off by a Jaylen Dodd 8 yard touchdown run to make it 17-7 Eagles with 4 minutes left in the third. After another Patriot turnover, Reinhardt punched in a 4 yard touchdown drive to make it 24-7 with the 4th quarter about to start.
Everyone knows that in football, the great teams are shown through how they handle adversity. The Patriots were facing it head on, trailing on the road 24-7, to a top 25 opponent. The Patriots stood to the task and exploded against the Eagles. It started with 10 minutes to go in the 4th when Adam Craig tiptoed it in from the 1 yard line to make it 24-14 Eagles. The Patriot defense, which had a great day stopping the RU offense, came up with another huge stop to give the Patriots the ball back with a chance to chip away at the lead. UC did just that on the next drive as D'Angelo Jordan capped off a 9 play, 68 yard drive with a touchdown to make it 24-21 Eagles with all the momentum on the Patriots side.
Defensive Coordinator Michael Collins and his defense came up with another key stop to give the Patriots the ball back with just enough time for a game winning touchdown drive. That drive was boosted tremendously by Iqaun Deed (Montezuma, GA) who took the punt return 45 yards all the way down to the RU 5 yard line with 4 minutes to go. Jordan took the handoff in the endzone for a 2 yard touchdown run and the lead for the first time since the 2nd quarter went to UC 28-24.
The Patriots were not out of the woods yet as it would be up to the defense to get one more critical stop and survive with a victory. As mentioned previously, the UC defense has had a saying for the last 6 years; they will bend but not break. There is no better example of this as on the drive by Reinhardt to try and win the game over UC. The Eagles drove it all the way down to the UC 24 yard line until a huge stop stopped the momentum and any chance to spoil the Patriots undefeated season in the process as the Patriots came away with a 28-24 thrilling come from behind victory.
This could be the best win for the Patriots this season as they were able to overcome some turnovers and mistakes to help get them to 7-0 on the year and 3 games away from a perfect regular season. The Patriots had one of their worst games rushing in recent history as they ran for just 185 yards on the ground. UC still was able to rack up 349 yards of total yards on the day as the 2 big threats Adam Craig and D'Angelo Jordan helped carry the Patriots to victory. Craig finished the day with 81 yards on 15 carries for 1 touchdown, and threw for 164 yards and 1 touchdown. As for Jordan, he had another day to remember as he had 16 carries for 74 yards and 2 touchdowns and the 78 yard reception for a touchdown. Willie Gibson (Abbeville, GA) continued his excellent senior season as he had 3 catches for 53 yards.
As for the defense, they did nothing but impress and were a key reason the Patriots were able to come away with a victory. The UC defense held the potent Eagles offense to 138 yards rushing and 278 yards passing. It was the fact that they came up with big plays when needed that spoke for how well the Patriot defense played. Jeremy Gardner (Frankfort, KY) led the way for the Patriots as he had 14 total tackles including a huge sack. Weston Hazelhurst (Clinton, TN) continued to impress as he added another 9 total tackles and a half sack.
The Patriots road doesn't get any easier as they will travel to Campbellsville University next week to take on the Tigers. Head Coach John Bland was happy to come away with a victory but knows they have some things to clean up commenting, "We played so well and had a great comeback at the end of the game. Reinhardt is a real good football team and we knew it would be a battle. We made a few mistakes that didn't help us out, but we overcame it and ended up with a nice win."
Look for the Patriots to clean those mistakes up and try to come away with a victory against the always pesky Tigers. That game is scheduled to kickoff at 1:30 and can be heard live on www.cumberlandspatriots.com.
For more information on Patriot athletics, as well as other Cumberlands Patriots athletics check out or website at www.cumberlandspatriots.com.