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Bulldog rally falls short at Bethel
Oct 31, 2012 12:00 am
MCKENZIE – Bethel scored twice in just over a minute in the third period and the Wildcats broke up a two-point conversion attempt with 2:20 remaining, hanging on to defeat 20th-ranked Cumberland, 32-30, here Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.
The decision knocked the Bulldogs out of the NAIA top-25 poll released Monday while Bethel, unranked in recent weeks, returned to the rankings at No. 21.
Bethel’s special teams played a huge part in the contest, with Jahron Reynolds running a kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown and taking a punt back 56 yards in the third quarter, setting up the final points for the Wildcats (6-3, 4-0 Mid-South West Division). The junior receiver finished with 245 all-purpose yards in the game, including a 40-yard catch-and-run late in the first half that set up BU’s final score before intermission.
Cumberland led 21-12 with 4:13 remaining in the second period after Lemeco Miller’s 67-yard touchdown run, pushing the senior over the 1,000-yard plateau for the season. Reed Gurchiek scored on rushing TDs of 21 and 35 in the first period, as the Bulldogs took an early lead.
Bethel quarterback Wil Masoud, a 6-foot-6 senior, scored on runs of two and eight yards in the first half as well. He escaped pressure all day against the Bulldogs, who did not record a sack in the contest. Masoud finished with 62 yards rushing on seven carries, none bigger than a 13-yard scramble on 3rd-and-7 with just over a minute to play, essentially sealing the win on Senior Day for BU.
Once again Cumberland did what it wanted to do, holding the ball for almost 41 minutes and rushing 58 times for 329 yards, limiting the number of possessions for Bethel. Miller finished with 153 yards on 22 carries, his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season, and Gurchiek nearly hit the century mark as well, carrying 17 times for 92 yards.
Gurchiek was also 12-of-22 passing for 155 yards and one score but was sacked three times.
Masoud completed 14-of-24 passes for 173 yards and one score as well. Raquis Hale led the Wildcats on the ground with 79 yards on 11 attempts.
Gurchiek finished the opening drive of the game with a 21-yard scamper over the right side for a quick 7-0 advantage, ending a four-play drive. But the Wildcats answered quickly, going 65 yards on nine plays, capped by a two-run run around the right from Masoud, but BU’s Robby Phillips missed the extra point.
The Bulldogs took their next drive 63 yards on seven plays, with Gurchiek breaking through the line and going 35 yards for the score and a 14-7 advantage. CU’s kickoff coverage was again exposed though, as Reynolds took the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for the score. Masoud was tackled on the two-point run and Cumberland led 14-12 with 2:51 remaining in the opening period.
The teams traded punts until late in the second quarter when Miller struck for a 67-yard run down the right sideline, going over the 1,000-yard mark for the season on the touchdown and a 21-12 lead.
Bethel came right back again, going 57 yards on just four plays after a 40-yard catch-and-run from Reynolds. Masoud went eight yards over the right side for the score, cutting the CU lead to 21-19.
The Bulldogs marched 45 yards on four plays to the Bethel 22 before the half, but two sacks of Gurchiek pushed the ball back and Michael Hagewood knocked down the long pass from Masoud in the end zone on the final play of the half.
Riley Cathey, playing his first game on the defensive line this season, intercepted a tipped pass by Adam Wiss with a diving grab on Bethel’s first drive of the third quarter. The Bulldogs then marched methodically down the field, going 17 plays and 57 yards before stalling at the BU 6. Jared White booted a 23-yard field goal, giving CU a 24-19 advantage.
Bethel came right back again, with 19 and 11-yard rushes from Hale before Masoud hit Justin Brandy for a 29-yard TD pass, with Brandy juggling the pass before finally making the catch. Masoud was tackled short on the two-point try and BU led 25-24.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out and Reynolds ran back the punt 56 yards to the CU 15. Hale rushed 15 yards for the score on the next play and a 32-24 Wildcats advantage.
Cumberland mounted a drive midway through the final period, going 47 yards on eight plays, including a 34-yard catch down the left sideline to BJ Stewart after Gurchiek escaped pressure. But the drive stalled and Jared White stubbed a 37-yard field goal, keeping the lead at eight.
The Bulldogs took over again with 6:34 to play and some heroics from Gurchiek gave the squad a chance to tie the contest. Pass interference on a halfback pass from Blake DeBoard started the drive and Gurchiek hit DeBoard for nine yards, but a big sack put the squad in a 2nd-and-20 situation.
Gurchiek was nearly sacked again but somehow managed to find Adrian Baker just before he went to the ground for a 13-yard gain on third down. Then he found Marquis Hagewood for a beautiful 32-yard strike in the end zone on fourth down. The Bulldogs went for two, but his pass to Ryan Slack on the back line was covered well by the Wildcats.
Cumberland will play its final home game of the year at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Bluefield at Nokes-Lasater Field.