Union College and Cumberland played cha-ching with the Nokes-Lasater Field scoreboard Saturday afternoon and when the dust had settled and the homecoming queen crowned, the home team won the battle of the Bulldogs 45-43.
In what has become a bad habit, Cumberland fell behind before rallying behind a quarterback out of the bullpen. In this case, Mt. Juliet’s Reed Gurchiek came in for Broc Loveless and 92 yards and a pair of scores, the second of which capped a comeback from 10 points down to a 24-20 lead early in the second half.
Starter Broc Loveless wasn’t bad, either, running for two scores and 96 yards as Cumberland won its fourth straight following an 0-2 start. His 4-yard run put CU ahead to stay 31-27 midway through the third quarter. Michael Green’s 18-yard scoring sweep, his only carry of the day, gave the hosts the breathing room they needed to keep the visitors at bay.
“Both of them are a big part of our offense and without those two guys we wouldn’t be clicking,” Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said of his alternating quarterbacks, who were both on the field at the same time for a few plays [Loveless hit a long pass as a wideout after taking a pitch from Gurchiek]. “Broc has a few more moves than Reed does and Reed is probably a stronger, more physical runner.”
And Gurchiek’s former Mt. Juliet High teammate, Michael Nwokoji, led Cumberland with 114 yards on 15 carries, including a 1-yard scoring plunge into the scrum which brought the Bulldogs within 20-17 going into halftime.
“Nwokoji has done well for us and he’s pretty durable,” Suber said of the fourth-year junior. “Mario [Hill’s] battling turf toe and it’s hard to give him reps during the game. Nwokoji has played well, done what we have asked him to do and he’s in great shape.”
His 54-yard scoring burst opened a 45-30 lead in the fourth quarter and came on the first play after Union’s Alex Sigmon kicked a 25-yard field goal on fifth down.
It appeared no one but the stat crew in the press box was aware the officials failed to change the downs on the sideline marker, giving Union an extra snap. Suber said he wasn’t aware of the snafu which gave the visitors three extra points and kept them close enough to remain a threat.
“It didn’t need to be as close as it was,” Suber said. “Our guys battled and played hard and defensively we kept it close for them. We came through and made a play when we had to.”
After Zack Martin scored on a 12-yard run and Domonique Jefferson a 43-yard pass from Hogan Goodson brought Union to within two points with less than two minutes to play, Goodson’s run for two points ended when he was hit by Anthony Knight and fumbled as he dove for the pylon, preserving the lead.
After Sigmon’s ensuing onside kickoff bounced out of bounds, Loveless took three knees to end the game.
Goodson played the second half at quarterback for Union and completed 9 of 17 passes for 152 yards and a pair of scores, both to Jefferson with the first covering 40 yards to swing the visitors back in front 27-24 in the second half.
Chandler Whittlesey played the first half and hit 5 of 12 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, a 40-yard strike to jared Smith which put the visitors up 20-10 late in the half.
After Beau Baker’s 34-yard field goal put Cumberland up early 3-0, Union came back with Leonard Dixon’s 15-yard touchdown run and Chris Pinnock’s 14-yard return of a fumbled lateral. Devin Guthrie blocked the second extra point to leave the visitors with a 13-3 lead.
The teams swapped scores for a 2 1/2 –minute period in the third quarter with Cumberland coming out of the cycle up 31-27.
“Defensively we’re not clicking right now and we’ve got to get our act together and I’m responsible for them,” said Suber, who is also the Dawgs’ defensive coordinator. “We’ll keep working on it and hopefully we’ll get it worked out.”
CU will wrap up its four-game homestand this coming Saturday when Faulkner comes to Nokes-Lasater for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
“Faulkner slings it all over the field,” Suber said. “Hopefully, our offense will keep their offense off the field.”
Cumberland 45, Union 43
Union 13 7 7 16—43
Cumberland 3 14 21 7—45
Cumberland—Beau Baker 34 FG, 12:43.
Union—Leonard Dixon 15 run [Alex Sigmon kick], 11:32.
Union—Chris Pinnock 14 fumble recovery [kick blocked], 7:03.
Cumberland—Reed Gurchiek 7 run [Baker kick], 7:15.
Union—Jared Smith 40 pass from Chandler Whittlesey [Sigmon kick][, 4:32.
Cumberland—Michael Nwokoji 1 run [Baker kick], 1:33.
Cumberland—Gurchiek 5 run [Baker kick], 9:43.
Union—Domonique Jefferson 40 pass from Hogan Goodson [Sigmon kick], 8:31.
Cumberland—Broc Loveless 4 run [Baker kick], 7:21.
Cumberland—Michael Green 18 run [Baker kick] 1:06.
Union—Sigmon 25 FG, 6:28.
Cumberland—Nwokoji 54 run [Baker kick], 6:17.
Union—Zack Martin 12 run [Sigmon kick], 5:50.
Union—Jefferson 43 pass from Goodson [run failed], 1:49.
First downs 22 22
—Rushing 11 13
—Passing 8 7
—Penalty 3 2
Rushes-yards 34-189 55-311
Passing yards 252 178
Comp.-Att.-Int. 14-29-0 12-23-0
Punts-avg. 7-38.1 5-45.0
Penalties-yards 9-86 13-96
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
RUSHING—Union: Brian Clark 16-83, Hogan Goodson 3-31 Chandler Whittlesey 5-29, Leonard Dixon 6-20, Zack Martin 2-16, Cody Sapcut 1-4, Renardo Stokes 1 - [-2], Diquan Jefferson 0-8. Cumberland: Michael Nwokoji 15-114, Broc Loveless 16-96, Reed Gurchiek 18-92, Michael Green 1-18, Blake DeBoard 1-[-2], Team 1-[-7].
PASSING —Union: Hogan Goodson 9-17-0—152, Chandler Whittlesey 5-12-0—100. Cumberland: Broc Loveless 6-12-0—117, Reed Gurchiek 6-11-0—61.
RECEIVING—Union: Renardo Stokes 3-57, Jared Smith 3-54, Domonique Jefferson 2-83, Leonard Dixson 2-30, Marcus Ford 2-24, Brian Clark 1-6, Zack Martin 1[-2]. Cumberland: Michael Nwokoji 5-47, Anthony Woodard 3-47, Michael Green 2-25, Luke Jennings 1-61, Brandon Mallory 1-[-2].