Credit: Jay Stancil - Union College SID
CORBIN, Ky. - A trio of Bulldogs netted milestones in Union College's season opener; however, it was the Patriots of University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) that were celebrating as Cumberlands pulled out the 24-19 decision Saturday to hang on to the Brass Lantern at Campbell Field in Corbin, Ky.
Senior linebacker Patrick O'Neal (Lula, Ga.) tied the school record for tackles in a game with 20, equaling the mark set by John Fey which was set back in 1997. Sophomore defensive back Ty Harris (Monroe, Ga.) picked off three passes to equal the school record. Harris has now twice accomplished the feat and joins Lavarus McCloud and C.J. Westerman as the only ones to achieve the milestone. Senior quarterback Joey Waters (McDonough, Ga.) became the first player in school history to amass 40-plus touchdown passes as he now stands alone in that category with 41.
But it went all for naught as Cumberlands was able to hold strong and pull out the five-point win to keep the Brass Lantern for the second year in a row.
The contest was also a Mid-South Conference East showdown as Cumberlands improved to 1-0 overall and 1-0 in MSC East play. Union dropped to 0-1 overall and 0-1 in league play.
Although Union won the turnover battle as Cumberlands coughed it up four times to Union's two, the last Bulldog miscue ultimately proved costly.
Down 17-13 with just over four minutes to play, Brian Abshire picked off a Waters pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown to give Cumberlands a 24-13 cushion with 3:58 to play.
Not ready to give up, Union covered 60 yards in four plays to cut into the deficit. Waters hooked up with Kyle Callahan (Covington, Ky.) for a 33-yard touchdown pass, making it 24-19 with 2:58 remaining. The Bulldogs went for two but Waters was stopped just short of the goal line.
Union, though, would not get a chance to take the lead. Cumberlands took the ensuring possession and ran out the clock. A Kyle King 24-yard run sealed the victory as it put the ball on the Union 8 with just over a minute left with one timeout left for Union.
Cumberlands outgained Union 323-312 in total offense with 248 yards coming on the ground. King led Cumberlands with 92 yards and two scores on 25 carries. Bob Evans ran for 61 yards on five carries. King also completed 5-of-15 passes for 75 yards.
Waters tossed 24-of-39 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Callahan hauled in seven passes for 70 yards and two scores, while Chris Collopy (Manchester, Ky.) pulled down six for 47 yards. Shawn Kelly (Owenton, Ky.) had four catches for 71 yards.
Union rushed for 63 yards with Lee Miles (Ross, Ohio) leading the way with 52.
The Bulldogs took the early lead thanks to a James Hager (Micanopy, Fla.) 22-yard field goal with 10:11 to go in the first.
It remained a 3-0 game until the 3:53 mark in the second when King scored on a 4-yard run, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive as Cumberlands took a 7-3 lead into the half.
Hager connected on a 41-yarder early in the third, cutting the margin to 7-6 with 11:02 on the clock.
Hunter Meade booted a 38-yard field goal and King scored on a 1-yard plunge early in the fourth, stretching Cumberlands' lead to 17-6 with 14:53 remaining in the contest.
Harris picked off his third pass on the Cumberlands' 28 and returned it to the 6-yard line. Four plays later, Waters and Callahan hooked up for a 1-yard pass, making it a 17-13 contest with 10:57 to play.
Abshire's 58-yard interception return gave Cumberlands a 24-13 cushion, but Waters hit Callahan on a 33-yard scoring play to make the final 24-19.
Cumberlands now leads the series with a 20-9 record.
Union returns home Saturday to play host to Lambuth (Tenn.) University at 1:30 p.m.
The Cumberlands travel to Campbellsville for a 1:30 kick.