LEBANON -- Broc Loveless rushed for two touchdowns and Austin Chaplin’s blocked punt provided another score as Cumberland rolled to a 34-13 Senior Day victory Saturday over Bethel University at Nokes-Lasater Field.
The Bulldogs (5-4, 2-2 Mid-South West) finished the season 4-1 at home and will end the year with road games at Reinhardt University and Alderson Broaddus University.
Loveless scored on a 19-yard scamper on the second play of the game after Michael Green ran the opening kickoff back 65 yards. He added another TD in the third quarter, running from the seven, fumbling at the one but recovering the ball in the end zone for the score.
Fredrel Cross added 65 yards on 14 carries and Caleb Blance returned after a five-game suspension, rushing for 53 yards and one touchdown. Mario Hill added a one-yard score as well for the Bulldogs.
Loveless and Reed Gurchiek finished the game 9-of-16 passing for just 62 yards and two interceptions.
Bethel started freshman Wil Nicks under center and he completed 13-of-35 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions as well. Devaris Mosley returned the second INT 52 yards, setting up Blance’s two-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter for the final score of the game.
Travis Smith carried a game-high 26 times for 110 yards for the Wildcats, but Bethel was just 6-of-19 on third down and also fumbled twice to go with Nicks’ two picks. Cumberland’s defense limited Bethel to just 99 yards and three first downs in the second half, forcing four punts, a turnover on down and intercepting one pass.
Green returned the opening kickoff 65 yards to the Bethel 30-yard line and two plays later Loveless rushed 19 yards over the right side for the touchdown. After a penalty on the Bulldogs on the extra point, Beau Baker missed his first point-after of the year and CU led 6-0 just 35 seconds into the contest.
Cumberland forced a fumble on Bethel’s first possession but had to punt the ball back to the Wildcats, who put together the first prolonged drive of the game. BU covered 52 yards on 12 plays, including a dropped touchdown pass by Emmitt Martin, and settled for a 34-yard field goal by Robbie Phillips, cutting the CU lead in half.
The Bulldogs’ special teams came up with a big play early in the second quarter, with Chaplin (Mt. Juliet High) blocking a punt and Clyde Payne picking up the loose ball and going 13 yards for the touchdown. But Bethel’s Quincy Walden returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a score and the Wildcats trailed 13-10 with 13:02 left in the half.
Cumberland’s best drive of the opening 30 minutes came on its next possession and included 13-yard rushes from Cross and Blance. The duo rushed for six yards apiece later on the drive and Gurchiek went 18 yards to the one-yard line before Hill finished the march with a one-yard plunge for a 20-10 CU advantage midway through the second quarter.
Bethel answered again, though, moving 55 yards on 16 plays with the help of an unsportsmanlike penalty on Cumberland to extend the drive. Nicks converted a third and a fourth down with completions on the drive before Phillips booted a 39-yard field goal into the wind that just cleared the cross bar, cutting the Bulldog lead to 20-13. That’s the way the teams went to intermission, with the two clubs combining for 208 of the game’s 306 total yards on the ground.
Cumberland scored on its opening possession of the second half, with a 31-yard rush by Loveless moving to the ball to the Bethel 39-yard line. Baker booted a 33-yard field goal on fourth down, but the Wildcats lined up offsides, giving CU a first down. Four plays later Loveless went up the middle, cut back to the left and made it to the end zone, fumbling at the one, but the ball landed under his left arm for the score and a 27-13 lead.
Devaris Mosley’s first career interception and 52-yard return setup the Bulldogs at the three yards line of the Wildcats and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Caleb Blance rushed two yards up the middle for the score and a 34-13 Bulldogs advantage.
Cumberland plays at 11 a.m. Central Time next Saturday at Reinhardt, the Mid-South Conference West Division leader and a first-year football program.