HICKORY, N.C. --- Lenoir-Rhyne's Nelson Brown rushed for 261 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Bears to a 31-3 win over visiting Tusculum Saturday night at Moretz Stadium in the South Atlantic Conference opener for both teams.
Lenoir-Rhyne (1-2, 1-0 SAC) accounted for 398 yards offensively, while the Pioneers (0-3, 0-1 SAC) were held to 214 yards on the evening.
Tusculum quarterback Luke Lancaster went 17-for-44 with 157 yards passing and an interception. Rodnell Cruell led the Pioneers with four receptions for 44 yards, while Eric Lynch tallied four catches for 37 yards. Deshawn Davis made three grabs for 37 yards and Jordan Barnes made two receptions for 21 yards.
L-R signal caller Jarrod Kellar passed for 108 yards, going 8-of-19 with two interceptions and a touchdown.
The Bears recovered a muffed punt in the first quarter at the Tusculum seven-yard line. The Pioneer defense held on three plays as L-R settled for a 23-yard field goal by Hunter Haire to take a 3-0 lead at the 4:12 mark of the first quarter.
Lenoir-Rhyne tacked on its first touchdown of the night when Brown scampered for a 24-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining in the opening period.
L-R's T.J. Smith made it a 17-0 game when he ran up the middle for a 38-yard touchdown with 2:50 left before intermission.
The Pioneer offense churned out an 11-play, 80-yard drive which stalled at the L-R 3. Tusculum would get a 19-yard field goal from Will Tommie as Lenoir-Rhyne led 17-3 at halftime.
Neither team would score in the third quarter, but the Bears broke the scoreless drought early in the fourth quarter when Isaiah Herring intercepted a Lancaster pass and returned the pick 22 yards for a touchdown and a 24-3 L-R lead.
Brown posted his second TD run of the game with two minutes remaining as he scampered for a 50-yard touchdown to provide the final margin of victory.
L'Keith Brown led the Pioneers on defense with his 10 tackles, including two for loss, a sack, recovered a fumble and recorded a pass break-up. Brandyn Bartlett finished with eight tackles, while the quartet of Deres Benn, Jay Boyd, Stetson Mayes and Brandon Williams all finished with six tackles each.
Lenoir-Rhyne's Clayton Horn led all players with 11 tackles and record one of the team's six sacks for the game.
Tusculum returns home next Saturday when they host Newberry for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff from Pioneer Field.