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CU defense forces 6 TOs in 40-28 win

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WALESKA, Ga. -- Cumberland rushed for 310 yards and took advantage of six turnovers to post a 40-28 victory over 20th-ranked Reinhardt University Saturday at Ken White Field.

The Bulldogs (6-4, 3-2 Mid-South West) held the ball for over 41 minutes and rushed the ball 65 times against the Eagles (5-4, 3-1).

Fredrel Cross, who was a defensive back three weeks ago, carried 19 times for 138 yards and one touchdown and Broc Loveless added 67 yards on 19 attempts and another score.

Reed Gurchiek and Caleb Blance rushed for 53 yards apiece and Blance scored twice. Gurchiek and Loveless combined to complete 16-of-25 passes for 151 yards, including a 34-yard Hail Mary to Michael Green on the final play of the first half.

The Bulldogs scored 24 points off Reinhardt turnovers, including Blance’s 11-yard TD run midway through the first quarter and a two-yard plunge early in the second period.

A quarterback sneak late in the third quarter by Loveless put CU ahead, 40-21, and the defense did the rest, sacking and hurrying Reinhardt’s Ryan Thompson multiple times over the final minutes to preserve the victory.

The Eagles lost four fumbles and Nathan Jernigan picked off a pair of passes and nearly had another in the final minutes.

Jernigan led the Bulldogs with nine tackles and added a quarterback hurry as well, as Cumberland’s defense limited Reinhardt to just 280 total yards of offense. RU entered the game averaged 446 yards per contest.

LJ Stegall led the Eagles with 151 yards on just 10 carries and two touchdowns. Thompson and Johnathan Chamblee finished 8-of-24 passing for 131 yards and one TD.

The Bulldogs took the opening drive of the game 74 yards on 11 plays, including 17 and 13-yard rushes from Loveless, but the drive stalled inside the Reinhardt 15 and Beau Baker kicked a 23-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Stegall was in the clear in the middle of the field on the ensuing kickoff but fumbled and Taylor Bozeman recovered, setting up the Bulldogs at the RU42. Reinhardt’s Tevin McCoy was ejected on third down after throwing a punch, giving CU a first down, and four plays later Blance rushed 11 yards up the middle for a touchdown and a 10-0 edge about seven minutes into the game.

Stegall returned the next kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, though, making up for his miscue, the first of two long plays in the first half for the freshman running back.

The Bulldogs answered though, with Loveless rushing for 16 yards and completing a 13-yard pass to Cain Smith. Cross rushed 18 yards over the left side and then up the middle for the final seven, giving CU a 17-7 advantage with 5:46 left in the opening period.

Cumberland got the ball back later in the quarter after Jernigan’s second interception of the season. Loveless converted on 4th-and-1 on a QB sneak and then was sacked on fourth down on the next set of downs, but a facemask penalty gave the club another first down, one of 21 in the first half.

Gurchiek carried for 13 yards on the first play of the second quarter and Baker booted a season-long 38-yard field goal to finish the drive for a 20-7 CU lead.

Niagel Curtis fumbled on Reinhardt’s next possession, with Dren Johnson making the hit and recovering the ball for the Bulldogs. Gurchiek completed three straight passes on the drive, one for 19 yards to Luke Jennings, and Blance gained the final 11 yards on two attempts for the TD. The PAT was blocked after a penalty pushed the ball back, but Cumberland led 26-7 with 10:15 left in the half.

The Eagles answered quickly again, with Stegall rushing for 10 yards and Aaron Kennedy catching a 10-yard pass before Stegall carried around the left side and outran everyone to the end zone for a 53-yard TD run, cutting the advantage to 26-14.

Cumberland drove to the Reinhardt 38 and on fourth down tried a fake punt, but Loveless was tackled short, giving Reinhardt the ball. Stegall rushed for 24 yards and Kennedy caught a 21-yard touchdown pass, making it 26-21 with 1:17 left in the half.

Cross carried for 22 yards on the first play after the kickoff but Gurchiek was sacked later in the drive. After a short completion Blake DeBoard, Gurchiek lofted a pass into the end zone on the final play of the period and Green caught it near the back of the end zone, behind the scrum of people going up for the ball, giving the Bulldogs a 33-21 at the break.

On fourth down in the third quarter, Rickey Dowdy caused a fumble on a sack of Thompson and the ball was kicked upfield over 30 yards, with Justus Dauscha recovering for the Bulldogs. Cross gained 29 yards to the RU1 on the first play, but it took the Bulldogs four plays to get into the end zone after a false start penalty on second down. Loveless stuck the ball over the goal line on fourth down, giving CU a 40-21 edge with 2:17 left in the period.

Midway through the final quarter Reinhardt drove 83 yards on just six plays after Gurchiek fumbled into the Eagles 15-yard line. Thompson hit Tyler Bradley for 41 yards on the drive and Stegall rushed 16 yards for the score over the right side on the next play, cutting the lead to 40-28 with 8:38 remaining.

Cumberland punted on its next possession and the Eagles drove for the CU26 after a pass interference call, but Nick Lennox and Dowdy both had QB hurries and the fourth down throw was well short, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs. CU punted again after taking almost three minutes off the clock, with Tyler Emmetts hammering a 59-yard strike and Scott Beach making a great solo tackle on Kennedy at the RU15.

The Eagles moved the ball 26 yards on nine plays, but Lennox hurried Thompson twice and Cayman Russell posted two sacks on the drive. Dauscha added a hurry and Bradley was unable to grab the fourth down play, sealing the win for Cumberland.

The Bulldogs finish the regular season next Saturday at Alderson Broaddus College, a first-year NCAA Division II program in Philippi, W.Va.

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