LEBANON, Tenn. – In a game of contrasting styles, Cumberland (Tenn.) willed itself from 21-points down to pull out a 49-42 overtime victory over the University of Pikeville on Saturday.
A.J. Graham led the Bears’ offense to 447 yards through the air, completing 32 of 53 passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions for 427 yards, but The Bulldog rushing attack came out on top, despite a school-record 185 receiving yards from Nu’Keese Richardson.
UPIKE (3-3, 1-2 MSC East) outgained Cumberland 447-80 passing, but it made up for it with a 306-79 yard advantage rushing. Two players went for over 100 yards, including Michael Nwokoji with 138 and three touchdowns and quarterback Broc Loveless with 112 on eight carries with two touchdowns.
Reed Gurchiek was Cumberland’s leading passer with 54 yards on a 9 of 19 performance with a pick, while Loveless was just 2 of 4 for 26 yards. UPIKE led the game in total offense 526-386.
John-Dudley Hilton led all players with 14 tackles, while defensive end Chris Watson came up with two sacks for the Bears.
Four minutes into the first quarter it looked like the UPIKE offense was clicking on all cylinders as Graham hit Richardson with a 43-yard touchdown strike to go up 7-0. Richardson finished with 10 catches on his way to the record-breaking day.
UPIKE led 14-0 after Jordan Amis took a handoff four yards into the end zone, but the Bulldogs bounced right back with 32-yard run touchdown run for Nwokoji at the end of the first and a 68-yard scamper into the end zone for Loveless to start the second to make it 14-14.
The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-0 MSC West) recovery was short lived as the next 21 points went UPIKE’s way, ending with Graham’s six-yard pass to Amis to make it 35-14 at the start of the third quarter. But just like before, the Bulldogs found a way to get back in the game.
It started with a 13-play 65-yard drive finished by Nwokoji’s short run, followed by a nine-yard run for six by Gurchiek to make it a one-possession game at 35-28 with 12:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Fourteen seconds later the most costly turnover of the game occurred as one of Graham’s two interceptions was picked off by Simon Moriarty for a pick-six to tie the game.
On the next drive, Graham was picked off again, this time on third down to set up Cumberland on the UPIKE 17-yard line. After one incomplete pass, the next play went to Nwokoji for a 17-yard run to give the Bulldogs their first lead at 42-35.
The last touchdown in regulation was scored by Pikeville on a seven-play 56-yard drive that nearly ended in disaster. Richardson carried the ball to the one-yard line where he fumbled into the end zone, but Shawnta’ Zachary fell on it for the touchdown with seven minutes left in the game.
Cumberland had the ball first in overtime and used just two rushes from Loveless, including a 20-yard run through the middle of the field, to go on top 49-42. UPIKE came up empty on its possession that included three incomplete passes and Graham being sacked to end it.
The closest Pikeville would come was on second down when Richardson came down with the ball out of bounds, just inches from the end zone.
UPIKE has a bye next week before returning for homecoming at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 19 against Bethel (Tenn.) at the Hambley Athletics Complex.