BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – Cumberland scored on its first three possessions of the game and five of six possessions in the first half and the 15th-ranked Bulldogs held on for a 43-35 victory Saturday here at Burch-Nau Field.
Quan Johnson and James McClain both posted over 240 all-purpose yards and combined for four touchdowns while Adrian Baker scored twice on the ground for CU (7-1, 4-0 Mid-South West). Cumberland led 37-7 late in the first half and 37-14 at halftime before Union (2-7, 1-3) stormed back in the second half.
Johnson caught a 46-yard pass for a score in the first quarter and added the team’s only points of the second half, a 75-yard punt return in the third period. The Pensacola, Fla., native finished with 265 all-purpose yards in the contest, including a team-best 87 yards on 17 carries.
McClain had a seven-yard scoring run in the first quarter and made a 78-yard catch-and-run late in the first half, giving CU a 37-7 advantage at the time. The sophomore ended the game with 241 all-purpose yards, 74 on the ground, including a first down with a minute to play to ice the contest.
Reed Gurchiek threw for 152 yards in the game, 143 in the first half, on 7-of-13. He had two interceptions, both in the second half, including one returned 32 yards for a score by Pedro Pinckney early in the third quarter.
CU took the opening kickoff and moved 58 yards on six plays, with Baker rushing five yards for the touchdown. Union answered on its first drive, going 57 yards on 10 plays. James Sterlin caught a 12-yard touchdown pass, tying the contest at seven less than seven minutes into the game.
Cumberland faked a wide receiver screen on its next possession and Gurchiek hit Johnson for a 46-yard touchdown.
Connor McChurch then forced a fumble and recovered it on Union’s next drive. CU went 33 yards on seven plays for another score, with McClain getting a good block on the corner from Johnson and rushing around left end for the score and a 21-7 advantage late in the opening quarter.
After a short punt the Bulldogs moved 20 yards on seven plays before stalling, but Jarad White booted a career-long 40-yard field goal. Cumberland punted for the first time on its next possession but after the exchange of punts, CU took the ball at the Union 36.
Five plays later Baker broke several tackles up the middle en route to a nine-yard scoring run and a 24-7 lead. The Bulldogs got backed up on their next drive and Union helped the visitors with a running into the kicker penalty on fourth down, giving CU a chance to extend the possession.
On the next play Gurchiek tossed a long pass to McClain, who made the catch at the Union 35 on the left sideline, hit the breaks and let all of the defenders run right by, then cut back to the middle of the field, picking up blockers and going 78 yards on the longest pass play of the season. White missed the PAT, giving CU a 30-7 advantage with 1:44 left in the half.
After the opening drive Union lost three yards on five total drives before marching 60 yards on eight plays in the final minute of the half. Rob Brown carried four yards for the score, cutting the deficit to 37-14 at intermission.
Union drove inside the CU 20 on the opening drive of the second half, but Chris Simpson stepped in front of the pass at the goal line, picking up his third interception of the year. But Pinckney’s interception return followed. Gurchiek threw another pick on the next drive, but the CU defense forced a punt.
Ryan Moses hit Josh Winkle for a 24-yard TD pass late in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 43-28, and Demetrius Hicks got behind the defense for an 80-yard catch-and-run with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter, making it a one possession game.
Union drove to the CU 32 in the final minutes, but Moses misfired on 4th-and-8. The Bulldogs picked up two first downs to run out the clock and also burned more than seven minutes off the clock at the end of the third and into the fourth periods with a drive that ended with a punt.
Cumberland plays at Belhaven University next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. before finishing the regular season November 12 at home against the University of the Cumberlands.