Patriots use big plays to cool off 11th-ranked Fire in season-opener
LAKELAND, Fla. — The Patriot football team took to the road for their longest road trip of the season as they took their talents to the Sunshine State to take on the No. 11-ranked Fire of Southeastern University on Saturday. It was a game that saw both teams do what they could to take advantage of miscues by the opposing team. In this one, the Patriots would come up with the big plays at the biggest points of the contest as they would cool the Fire with a 27-26 win. The victory moves UC to 1-0 overall on the year.
UC would kick off to the Fire to begin the game, and Southeastern put together a solid drive, taking over five minutes off the clock. But, UC’s defense came up strong and held the Fire to just a field goal attempt. The 42-yard kick would sail wide right as the Patriots would take over on their own 25-yard line.
Cumberlands’ offense would then begin to march downfield but stalled out on the Southeastern 8-yard line. A 25-yard field goal by Devon McMillin sailed straight through the uprights for the first points of the 2018 season, giving UC a 3-0 lead that held through the end of the first quarter.
The Fire’s next drive would carry over from the first and would end with a 6-yard TD pass from SEU’s Ryder Litten to Maurice Anglin, capping a 10-play drive that covered 63 yards. The point after attempt by David Larson was good, giving Southeastern a 7-3 lead.
UC’s Josiah Robbins would get good field position to start the next drive as Demarius Smith would take the kickoff 48 yards out to the 50-yard line. After Robbins picked up a first down with his feet on a 24-yard scamper, he was picked off by SEU’s KJ McElvaney, giving the Fire the ball on their own 17-yard line.
A pair of three-and-outs by Southeastern along with one by the Patriots gave UC the ball on the Southeastern’ 45-yard line. After getting the ball back into the Fire’s red zone once again, McMillin would be called upon, this time from 23 yards out. He would punch this one through to make it 7-6 in favor of Southeastern.
After the kickoff from UC, Southeastern would have their first miscue of the game as Adam Johnson would force a Fire fumble that was recovered by Jaelon Benjamin, giving UC the ball on their 36-yard line. On the first play of the drive though, the Patriots would give up the ball on a fumble by Robbins that was recovered by Justin Visconti, giving SEU the ball in outstanding field position on the UC 12-yard line.
The defense of Cumberlands would come up big again, holding Southeastern to just a 26-yard field goal from Larson, making it 10-6 SEU. UC would get one more shot with the ball at the end of the quarter and would march the ball down to the Fire’ 22-yard line. McMillin would come out to attempt a 39-yard field goal as time expired, but the kick would fall short and wide left as the Patriots would trail the 11th-ranked Fire 10-6 at the half.
Cumberlands would begin the third with the ball and decent field position at their own 30-yard line. UC would make some great halftime adjustments as they would put together a three-play drive that was capped with a 32-yard TD pass from Robbins to Weston Hayes to give the Patriots their second lead of the game. The PAT from McMillin was good, making it 13-10 Cumberlands early in the third.
A three-and-out for the Fire would give the Patriots the ball back quickly with just under 12 minutes to go in the third. UC would take the drive down to the SEU 26-yard line, but would be turned away on a fourth down, giving the ball back to the Fire. A personal foul penalty against the Patriots on a third and long would bail out the Fire, giving them a second chance on the drive. UC’s defense would stand strong, but a 47-yard field goal from Larson would tie the game at 13-13 with just over two minutes left in the third.
Cumberlands would carry the drive over to the fourth quarter. On the first play of the fourth, Robbins would go to the air and find Joronnie Hinton on a 32-yard TD strike just eight seconds into the final frame. The point after by McMillin was good, pushing the Patriots back out front 20-13.
On the ensuing drive, the Fire would again take advantage of a personal foul penalty against the Patriots and this time would see Bryan Bell trot in from a yard out for a touchdown. The PAT by Larson was good, tying the game back up at 20-20 with 12:06 to play. UC’s next drive would go three-and-out, punting for just the second time in the game, but the Fire would start their drive from their own 41-yard line. On the first play of the SEU drive, Adam Johnson would pick off the pass by Litton and take it all the way to pay dirt as UC would regain the lead once again. The extra point from McMillin was good, giving the Patriots a 27-20 lead with just over ten minutes to play.
The defense for the Patriots showed its grit during the next Southeastern drive, forcing yet another punt by the Fire, but UC’s drive would start on their own eight-yard line after the punt. UC would go three-and-out in their drive, but a nice punt by McMillin would push the ball out to the SEU 39-yard line to start the drive with just over six minutes on the clock. Southeastern would come up with some big plays on the drive, including a fourth down conversion as Ryder would find Antwain Adams on a 27-yard TD strike. The PAT was wide left though, keeping UC out front 27-26 with 3:24 left on the clock.
UC’s drive would stall out as they would punt the ball away after a three-and-out and the Fire would take over on their own 24-yard line with 2:15 to play. Southeastern would convert two first downs on the drive. On a big third down and 12 on the SEU 48-yard line, Robbie Garvin would come up with a sack to make it fourth and 23 with just 54 seconds to play. A dropped pass on fourth down would end the drive and the Patriots would upset the #11 team in the NAIA 27-26.
The Patriots tallied 326 yards of offense on the night with 198 coming on the ground. Leading the way was Milton Shelton with 19 carries for 123 yards in the contest. Josiah Robbins added 51 yards on 12 carries while going 11-25 through the air for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both 32-yard passes with one to Weston Hayes (four catches for 54 yards) and one to Joronnie Hinton (three catches for 60 yards).
Defensively, Tyler Pendleton led the way with 10 total tackles (two solo). Jay Woods chipped in nine tackles (six solo) with a tackle for loss and a pass breakup while Cole Genders added seven tackles (three solo), two tackles for loss, and a sack. Adam Johnson was one of three Pats with six tackles, but added the big interception returned for a touchdown to give UC the late lead.
The Patriots now turn their attention to their home opener on Saturday, September 1st as they host the Eagles of Cincinnati Christian University under the lights at James H. Taylor, II Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.