CU downs Bethel 36-34

LEBANON -- Jared White booted a 30-yard field goal with 2:31 remaining as 17th-ranked Cumberland won a seesaw contest, 36-34, over 14th-ranked Bethel Saturday at Lindsey Donnell Stadium-Kirk Field.

With the victory Cumberland (6-1, 3-0 Mid-South West) moved into first place in the division, one game ahead of Bethel and two in front of Union College and Shorter University, who both lost on Saturday. The Bulldogs play at Union next Saturday at 11 a.m. Central Time.

The contest had seven lead changes, mostly because the Bulldogs failed on two extra point attempts by Beau Baker, including one that was blocked and one that hit the left upright. Cumberland took a 33-20 advantage after Simon Moriarty forced a fumble that was recovered by Cody McCallister for a touchdown with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter.

There were a lot of different big plays in the ballgame. Our guys hung in there, kept playing and answering the bell, CU head coach Dewayne Alexander said. It was kind of like an old heavyweight fight; someone would take a big swing and hit somebody and the other team would come right back and hit them again.

But Bethel (5-2, 3-1) answered with a pair of touchdowns, the second one after Prennis Thompsons interception and 23-yard return gave the Wildcats 1st-and-goal at the two-yard line. Two plays later 260-pound running back Dominique Allen barreled in for the score and a 34-33 BU lead with 7:20 left in the game.

Cumberland answered the bell though, methodically driving 59 yards on 11 plays and eating 4:49 off the clock. CU converted a pair of third downs on the drive but stalled at the Bethel 13, setting up Whites 30-yard game-winner that was right down the middle.

Our guys made a big drive there at the end after the interception, a good answer. I thought Reed Gurchiek showed a lot of poise there after throwing the interception, not hanging his head but coming back, moving us down the field and a then big kick from Jared White for the win.

The Wildcats still had plenty of time and two timeouts and took the ball at the Cumberland 46 after a 35-yard kickoff return from Patrick Cann, part of 170 yards in kick returns on the day for BU. A short rush and a short pass left Bethel with 3rd-and-6 and Will Masoud overthrew Cann down the left sideline after scrambling away from pressure. Masoud was pressured again on fourth down and his throw to Delano fell off the receivers hands and incomplete.

Bethel got the ball back one more time, but with only five seconds remaining. They tried the hook-and-ladder but it did not work and after a lot of running around and two laterals, McCallister fell on a fumble to end the contest.

Gurchiek, a Mt. Juliet, native, enjoyed his best game as a Bulldog, completing 26-of-35 passes for 294 yards and three TDs, two of them to DeJeay Woods, who caught nine balls for 78 yards before leaving the game in the third quarter with a knee injury.

The Bulldogs rushed 39 times in the contest for 152 yards and one score, done by committee as usual.

Tim McCord leading the way with 15 carries for 57 yards.

The Bulldogs piled up 446 yards of total offense to just 283 for Bethel, but the Wildcats had short fields on many occasions because of the great kickoff returns. The visitors drove 37, 47 and 49 yards for touchdowns in the contest.

Masoud finished 11-of-20 for 126 yards and one touchdown and also scored one TD with a quarterback sneak. Cordarious Mann rushed 23 times for 88 yards and a score, while Cann carried 11 times for 50 yards and one TD.