LEBANON -- Nashville sophomore James McClain rushed for 110 yards and four touchdowns as 20th-ranked Cumberland rolled to a 49-28 homecoming victory over Faulkner Saturday at Lindsey Donnell Stadium-Kirk Field.
CU (5-1, 2-0 Mid-South West Division) scored on its first four possessions of the game, including three drives with 10 or more plays. The Bulldogs also scored just before the half after a fumble deep to Faulkner territory and led 35-14 at intermission.
McClain rushed for three touchdowns in the first half and added another in the second half. Lemeco Miller, Adrian "Tank" Baker and Quan Johnson all scored one touchdown on the ground.
The Bulldog defense limited the Eagles (1-5, 0-3) to just 299 yards of total offense, almost 200 below their season average, while intercepting three passes, two from Ben Miller in the fourth quarter. Defensive end BJ Stewart also picked off a deflected pass and returned it 57 yards in the third period with Faulkner driving to cut the deficit to seven.
Cumberland quarterback Reed Gurchiek completed 15-of-20 passes for 120 yards and no interceptions. The Bulldogs had just one turnover in the game and it came on a kickoff return by Lemeco Miller.
Faulkners Josh Hollingsworth finished 21-for-36 for 194 yards and two touchdowns but with three picks. The Eagles rushed for 105 yards but did so on 34 attempts, a 3.1-yard average.
CU marched 56 yards on seven plays on the opening drive of the game, capped by a six-yard touchdown run from McClain. The Bulldogs stopped Faulkner on its first drive and took the next possession 81 yards on 10 plays, with Quan Johnson rushing 10 yards to cap a 10-play drive for a 14-0 advantage.
The Eagles got on the board with a five-play, 57-yard drive that took only two minutes. Courtney Pete broke a tackle on a short pass for a 30-yard gain and Hollingsworth scrambled 14 yards around the leftside for the score.
But the Bulldogs answered with an 11-play, 67-yard drive that took more than five minutes. McClains 15-yard run to the left gave CU a 21-7 lead with 12:43 left in the second quarter.
Faulkner came right back with a 12-play, 65-yard drive, with Hollingsworth scoring a fourth down run up the middle from three yards.
Cumberland came right back with another five-minute drive, taking 10 plays. Lemeco Miller carried 19 yards to the right for the touchdown and a 28-14 edge with 3:31 remaining.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt on the next possession, but Hollingsworth fumbled on a sneak with the Eagles backed up inside their five yard line. McClain carried five yards on the first play for his third score of the half and a 35-14 advantage.
CUs Josh Walker forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and after a 19-yard completion to McClain, Jared White missed a 30-yard field goal on the next-to-last play of the half. The snap was high and away from holder Broc Loveless, causing an awkward attempt from White.
Faulkner took the opening drive of the second half 68 yards on 13 plays, with a beautifully-timed screen pass to Ricky Barr from eight yards for the touchdown. Lemeco Miller then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Eagles good field position at the CU30.
But the Cumberland defense picked off its 13th pass of the season, as Steven Clemons hurried Hollingsworth and Simon Moriarty tipped the pass into the hands of Stewart, who rumbled 57 yards on the return. Four plays later McClain rushed four yards for his fourth score of the day, giving CU a 42-21 lead.
Faulkner scored its final points later in the third period, with Joe Pereiras 28-yard catch-and-run on a post route. Ben Miller stopped the Eagles final two drives of the game with interceptions, the final one his team-leading fourth of the year.
The Bulldogs used every second of the play clock after Ben Millers first pick, going 51 yards on 11 plays for the final score. Baker rushed four yards for the score with 1:28 remaining.
Cumberland hosts 17th-ranked Bethel University Saturday, Oct. 22 at 1:30 p.m. in a clash of Top 20 programs at Lindsey Donnell Stadium-Kirk Field.