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Defense saves the day for CU

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LEBANON -- Cumberland’s defense stopped Union quarterback Hogan Goodson on a two-point try with 1:49 remaining in the game, preserving a 45-43 victory on Homecoming Saturday at Nokes-Lasater Field.
 
The Bulldogs (4-2) won their fourth consecutive game behind 311 rushing yards, including 96 and one touchdown from Broc Loveless and 92 by Reed Gurchiek and two scores. The two quarterbacks combined for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the contest, completing 12-of-23 passes.

Mt. Juliet's Michael Nwokoji rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

CU erased a 20-10 deficit in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns, one just before the half on a one-yard run from Nwokoji and another five minutes into the third period on a five-yard scamper by Gurchiek, but Union retook the lead on a 40-yard TD pass to Domonique Jefferson with 8:31 remaining in the quarter.
 
Cumberland answered with two more touchdowns in the period, with Loveless carrying four yards for a score and Michael Green tip-toeing 18 yards down the sideline for a 38-27 advantage. Alex Signon’s 25-yard field goal on a fifth down cut the CU lead to eight, but Nwokoji outraced the defense 54 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive to push the advantage to 15.
 
Union came right back again, though, scoring on just two plays, capped by a 12-yard run from Zack Martin, and the Union defense forced a punt, giving the visitors the ball at their own 43 with 3:38 remaining. On 3rd-and-13 Jefferson caught a 43-yard TD pass over the middle, setting up a possible two-point try.
 
Union quarterback Hogan Goodson rolled right to throw but had to dive for the end zone. He has hit near the one-yard line by Anthony Knight and fumbled into the back of the end zone, where Grant Jones recovered for a touchback. The onside kick did not travel 10 yards and CU kneeled on the ball three times to finish off the victory.
 
Union gained 175 yards on 20 plays in the final period, nearly erasing the 15-point Bulldog lead. The Cumberland defense allowed just 213 yards after the opening drive of the game through the third period before allowing six plays of 13-plus yards in the final quarter.
 
Goodson finished 9-of-17 passing for 152 yards and two scores in relief. Starter Chandler Whittlesey completed only 5-of-12 for 100 yards and one TD. Clark rushed 16 times for 83 for Union as well.
 
The Bulldogs got on the board with a 48-yard drive on the opening possession of the game, with Loveless rushing 22 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Nwokoji following with a 23-yard catch-and-run that included running over a Union defender. But the drive stalled when Courtland Styles, Jr., dropped a third down pass inside the Union five-yard line and Beau Baker booted a 34-yard field goal for a 3-0 advantage.
 
Union answered quickly, going 53 yards on just three plays. Leonartd Dixon caught a 14-yard pass and Whittlesey rushed for 15 yards before Dixon scampered 15 yards around the right side for the score and a 7-3 lead for the visitors.
 
Union extended its advantage later in the period when Loveless threw a swing pass to Nwokoji to the right, but the running back wasn’t looking and the pass hit him in the back. The ball fell to the ground and most of the players on the field stopped, but Union’s Chris Pinnock picked up the ball and ran 14 yards for the score. Devin Guthrie blocked the extra point and Union led 13-3 with 7:03 to play in the opening period.
 
Gurchiek entered the game in the second quarter and led the Bulldogs on 12-play, 67-yard scoring drive that included a 13-yard run on a fake punt by Loveless and a roughing the passer penalty on Union’s John Hill that helped continue the drive. Gurchiek completed an 18-yard pass to Green before Gurchiek rushed seven yards over the right side on the next play for the score, cutting the deficit to 13-10.
 
Union answered right back again, with Whittlesey completing a 16-yard pass to Dixon to midfield. The Bulldogs picked up a personal foul penalty later in the drive and then Whittlesey tossed a 40-yard touchdown to Jared Smith, pushing the lead to 20-10 with 4:32 to play in the half.
 
A pass interference call on Union gave the Bulldogs an automatic first down late in the quarter and Gurchiek rushed three times for 39 yards before Anthony Woodard used all of his 6-foot-5 frame to take an interception away from Union’s Michael Lowder right along the sideline at the one-yard line. Nwokoji found a crease on the next play for the score, making it 20-17 just before the intermission.
 
After the break the Bulldog defense forced a punt and Cumberland used the two-quarterback system to its advantage. Gurchiek rushed for 16 yards before a double pass from Gurchiek to Loveless to Luke Jennings gained 61 yards. Three Gurchiek rushes later the Bulldogs led 24-20.
 
Cumberland committed an offsides penalty and a personal foul on the ensuing kickoff, giving Union the ball at the UC44. Three plays later Jefferson caught a 40-yard TD pass, giving Union the lead back.
 
Green returned the kickoff 46 yards to give CU good field position and Nwokoji gained 30 yards on first down. Loveless capped the drive with a four-yard run on 2nd-and-goal, with the Bulldogs regaining the lead for good this time, 31-27.
 
Loveless and Nwokoji combined for 51 yards rushing on the next drive, but the most important play of the possession was an 11-yard catch by Woodard on fourth down to keep the drive alive. On the next play Green came in motion and took the handoff, hitting the corner and just staying in bounds for the 18-yard score, setting up the final fireworks in the fourth quarter.
 
Cumberland hosts 23rd-ranked Faulkner University next Saturday, the first of three straight conference games before the regular season finale at Alderson Broaddus.

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