UVa-Wise Lights up Scoreboard in 51-41 Win Over Urbana
WISE, VA - Behind its highest point total since becoming a NCAA Division II member, UVa-Wise outlasted Urbana 51-41 at Carl Smith Stadium Saturday. The Cavaliers tallied a season-high 451 yards of offense in the win as four players had at least 39 rushing yards as the hosts gained 206 yards on the ground. UVa-Wise (4-2, 4-2 MEC) got off to a fast start as Andre Hamilton (Stafford, Va./North Stafford H.S.) deflected a Tajuan Green pass allowing Maurice Watkins (Richmond, Va./Thomas Jefferson H.S.) to pick it off and return it 31 yards for the touchdown. Following Trevor Owens ' (Lebanon, Va./Middle Tennessee State University) extra point the Cavs led 7-0 with just 45 seconds elapsed. After each defense forced a punt, Urbana (3-3, 2-3 MEC) took over on its own 49-yard line. The Blue Knights wasted little time as Maurice Warren galloped for 32 yards on a second down play before Green darted into the end zone from 17 yards out. Josh Cole's conversion kick tied the game with 10:34 to play in the first quarter. The remainder of the first quarter would belong to each school's defense. Urbana would hold UVa-Wise on a fourth down play inside the Blue Knights' 40-yard line while the Cavs' defense posted a goal line stand where the visitors had four cracks at the goal line from the 2-yard line. UVa-Wise began the second quarter with the football and appeared as if the defensive stand energized the offense. Quarterback Jarome Johnson (Washington, D.C./Eastern H.S.) would go 4-6 on the drive while adding 11 rushing yards on what would be his team's longest scoring drive of the season. Johnson capped the drive with a 48-yard touchdown strike to James Cousins (Richmond, Va./J.R. Tucker H.S.) on a third down and nine play. The extra point put the Cavs back in front 14-7 with 12:09 to play in the half. Neither offense would gain much traction for the remainder of the half as each defense would force a pair of punts. Urbana took over the football on its own 46-yard line with 3:46 to play down and engineered a scoring drive to tie the game. Green would complete back-to-back passes to Trevon Saunders to move the ball inside the UVa-Wise 25-yard line before the signal caller later found Rodell Rahmann for a touchdown. Cole tied the game with the extra point with just 57 seconds until halftime. UVa-Wise would fumble the ensuing kickoff, giving Urbana an opportunity to take the lead to intermission. Once more, the Cavs' defense rose to the occasion as the Blue Knights would not gain a yard on the drive. Cole's eventual attempt at a go-ahead field goal sailed wide and the two conference foes entered halftime tied. Marquis Hamilton (Washington, D.C./Marshall University) started the second half with a bang as he returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. It was the redshirt freshman's first collegiate touchdown and after the conversion kick, UVa-Wise led 21-14 just 14 seconds into the second half. Things turned from bad-to-worse for the Blue Knights as a fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Cavs the ball inside the visitors' 35-yard line. Four plays later, Javonte Latney (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax H.S.) scored from four yards out to give his team a two-score lead. After fumbling the previous kickoff, Saunders' next return chance went the distance. The senior fielded the ball in his own end zone and returned it 100 yards for the score. The PAT left the score 28-21 with 12:48 to play in the third period. Urbana's Sherman Watson would thwart UVa-Wise's next scoring chance when the defensive back picked off a Johnson pass at the 2-yard line. After allowing one first down on the next possession, the Cavs' defense forced a punt and the offense took over on its own 48-yard line. For the second time in the contest, Johnson and a UVa-Wise receiver gashed the Urbana defense on a third down and long play as freshman Chris Thaxton (Richmond, Va./Highland Springs H.S.) caught a pass and raced 44 yards for the first touchdown of his collegiate career. Owens' extra point split the uprights to push the lead to 35-21 with just five minutes to play in the third period. After an Urbana punt, UVa-Wise would be forced to punt late in the quarter. Andre Cliff would put his offense in good field position when he field a punt at his own 13-yard line and returned it to the UVa-Wise 30-yard line before being forced out of bounds by Owens. After picking up nine yards on its first three plays of the drive, Blue Knights' head coach Tyler Haines would elect to go for it on fourth and one down 14. Green would run off left end on the play and pick up the first down by a yard to move the ball inside the 20-yard line. Following consecutive penalties by the Cavs, the visitors had the ball on the 7-yard line to begin play in the final quarter. After an incomplete pass and short gain on third down, Haines once again elected to go for it on fourth down. This time, Green found Rahmaan for a 5-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 35-27. Cole's PAT was blocked by Josh Saunders (Freeport, Bahamas/Liberty Christian Academy) leaving the guests trailing by eight. From that point, UVa-Wise turned to the ground game. The Cavs would rush the ball on 10 consecutive plays to move the ball from their own 25-yard line to the Blue Knights' 3-yard line. On a third and goal play, Johnson would drop back to pass and find a wide open Jake Barnett (Big Stone Gap, Va./Union H.S.) for the touchdown. Daryian Basco (Suwanne, Ga./St. Francis H.S.) would connect on the PAT to push the lead to 42-27. Senior Ben Funny (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge H.S.) would seemingly seal the win for the Cavs on the next possession when he forced Green to throw the ball away in the end zone. Green would be called for intentional grounding in the end zone which resulted in a safety to give the hosts a 44-27 advantage. Sticking to the ground game, UVa-Wise moved the ball to the Urbana 45-yard line before a fumble stopped the drive. The Blue Knights' Colon Wright scooped up the ball and returned it 31 yards to the UVa-Wise 24-yard line. Four plays later, Green once again found Rahmaan for a touchdown, this time from eight yards out. Trailing by nine, Urbana elected to go for two points but, the pass attempt by Green sailed over the head of Maurice Warrant leaving the score 44-35 with 3:39 to play. UVa-Wise would recover an onside kick but two plays into the drive would fumble once more. This time, the Blue Knights jumped on the ball at the Cavs' 19-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Green lofted a pass over the outstretched arm of a UVa-Wise defender and into the arms of Phillip Dozier to cut the lead to 44-41. Watkins would block the extra point for his second big play of the day on special teams to keep his team in front by three with 3:19 to play. The Cavs recovered a second onside kick attempt and following a Blue Knights' penalty, the hosts started the drive on the visitors' 17-yard line. Misfortune nearly fell on Dane Damron 's squad again when his team fumbled on second down. This time however, Jake Sturgill (Abingdon, Va./Abingdon H.S.) would fall on the ball to preserve possession. One play later, junior Von Purvis (Stafford, Va./North Stafford H.S.) would take a handoff and break numerous tackles en route to a 28-yard game-sealing touchdown. Basco booted the extra point to provide the final margin of 51-41. Urbana entered the day leading all of NCAA Division II in sacks but managed just two in the loss. Duray Hall led the Blue Knights' defense with 11 tackles while Josh Dillard added nine stops. Linebacker Donavan Montague (Altavista, Va./Altavista H.S.) led UVa-Wise with eight tackles, while adding a sack as part of his two tackles for loss game. Funny finished with a team-high two sacks as the Cavs' defense registered six sacks and 12 tackles for loss in the win. Overall, UVa-Wise limited Urbana to 247 yards and under 3.4 yards per play on 75 offensive snaps. Green passed for four touchdowns but completed just 15-of-33 attempts while being sacked five times. Warren rushed for 64 yards on 12 carries while Rahmaan saw three of his four receptions go for touchdowns in the loss. Johnson passed for a season-high three touchdowns while rushing for 55 yards. The quarterback completed passes to six different receivers, led by Kaian Duverger 's (Greenacres, Fla./Lackawanna J.C.) five catches for 73 yards. James Cousins finished with 62 receiving yards on two catches while Thaxton posted 56 yards on his two receptions. UVa-Wise turned the ball over five times but was still able to win the game. It marked the most turnovers in a win during the Damron era as the team improved to 3-0 at home this season. The Cavs picked up of 12-of-17 third down attempts while holding the Blue Knights to 3-of-16 on third down. Urbana scored on just 4-of-7 trips to the red zone while UVa-Wise scored on 3-of-4 of its attempts.The 51 points were the most by the Cavs since Oct. 22, 2011 when UVa-Wise scored a 56-14 win over Pikeville College.
Next week, Damron's team hits the road to face West Virginia Wesleyan in a 12 p.m. kickoff.