JACKSON, Miss. – Reed Gurchiek accounted for 324 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead eight-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, as Cumberland picked up its first win of the season with a 41-31 victory here Saturday over Belhaven University at H.T. Newell Field.
Michael Nwokoji added 191 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries and Mario Hill helped the Bulldogs (1-2, 1-0 Mid-South West) run out the clock with five carries for 33 yards in the fourth quarter. The win was the first of head coach Donnie Suber’s career.
Nwokoji’s 89-yard touchdown run with 10:51 left in the game gave Cumberland a 38-24 advantage, but the Blazers came back with a three-yard scoring run from Rashad Wynes, cutting the lead back to seven. The Bulldogs milked the clock on the ensuing drive, converting a pair of third downs before Beau Baker, who had just two career field goals, converted his fourth three-pointer of the day, this one from 32 yards, for the final points.
Gurchiek gashed the Blazers defense early and often and finished with 189 yards on 17 carries with one score. He also completed 14-of-18 passes for 135 yards. Cumberland rushed 56 times in the game for 414 yards, running 77 offensive plays and holding the ball for almost 38 minutes.
The Bulldogs led 20-17 at the half, but Belhaven scored on a 26-yard catch-and-run to Deuce Coon midway through the third quarter, with the Blazers (1-3, 0-1) re-taking the lead. Baker made a 35-yard field goal, his longest of the game, with 1:25 left in the period, cutting the deficit to 24-23.
On Cumberland’s next possession, Nwokoji rushed for 20 and 11 yards before Gurchiek lofted a perfect touch pass to the back pylon for Courtland Styles, Jr. Gurchiek hit Blake DeBoard for the two-point conversion and a 31-24 advantage.
After the defense forced another punt, one of seven in the contest, Nwokoji busted through the line and found no one past the first wave of defenders, going 89 yards for the back-breaking score and a 38-24 lead.
After Wynes scored for Belhaven, Gurchiek completed a third-down pass to Green and Hill got another first down before the Bulldogs ran down the clock inside 30 seconds. Baker converted the final 32-yard field goal for the final margin and the Cumberland victory.
Cumberland forced a punt on the Belhaven’s opening possession of the game but a bad exchange between Gurchiek and DeBoard on CU’s first play from scrimmage was recovered by Victor Byers. Two plays later, Laderick Turner scampered 29 yards up the middle for the score and a 7-0 Blazers lead with 12:40 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs answered on the ensuing possession, marching 79 yards on 10 plays, including a 42-yard run on a quarterback draw by Gurchiek. Cumberland had the ball 1st-and-goal at the one-yard line and failed on a pass.
Nwokoji was tackled and Broc Loveless sneaked twice, the second time finally sticking the ball over the goal line for the score just before it was knocked loose, tying the contest at seven with 8:10 remaining in the opening period.
A 57-yard punt from Belhaven’s Curtis Westerfield pinned the Bulldogs at their one-yard line late in the quarter and a 25-yard punt from CU’s Tyler Emmetts set-up the Blazers at the CU29. But the defense held and forced a 39-yard field goal by Alonso Acosta for a 10-7 Belhaven advantage.
Back came the Bulldogs again, answering with a 12-play, 68-yard scoring drive, but a holding call pushed the ball back. Baker booted a 22-yard field goal just over two minutes into the second period, tying the game at 10.
Later in the quarter, after a short punt by Westerfield, Gurchiek rushed 48 yards to the Belhaven nine-yard line. Two plays later he went left, broke a tackle and fell into the end zone from four yards out, giving the Bulldogs a 17-10 edge with 7:22 left in the half.
A turnover on the next possession set-up the offense again, with Jarred Williams causing a fumble and Nick Lennox falling on it at the Belhaven 46-yard line. Gurchiek found Anthony Woodard for 31 yards on the first play, but a false start penalty stalled the drive. Baker kicked a 31-yard field goal this time, pushing the Cumberland lead to 20-10 with 3:31 remaining in the quarter.
Belhaven took the ensuing drive right down the field, though, going 75 yards on just six plays. Darrell Williams lofted a pass to the back of the end zone to Lamiquell Roberts, who out-wrestled Fredrel Cross for the ball and the score, cutting the CU lead to 20-17 at intermission.
Williams finished 16-of-26 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns for the Blazers, while Turner rushed 12 times for 113 yards and one score.
Cumberland plays the first of four straight home games next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Bluefield College at Nokes-Lasater Field.