SALISBURY, N.C. --- Evan Altizer made seven receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns in Tusculum College's 38-28 South Atlantic Conference victory at Catawba College Saturday afternoon at Shuford Stadium.
The Pioneers (3-7, 2-4 SAC) recorded a season-high 431 yards offensively, led by quarterback Luke Lancaster who he went 25-for-45 for 364 passing yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.
Tusculum overcame a pair of seven-point deficits and scored 17 unanswered points as the Pioneers snapped a five-game road losing streak and posted its first win at Catawba since 2010. The loss also spoiled the Catawba Indians (4-6, 4-2 SAC) hopes of capturing a second straight SAC championship.
Freshman running back Tony Belle rushed for a season-high 83 yards including a nine-yard touchdown run to put Tusculum on the scoreboard in the opening quarter.
The game got off to a sluggish start for the Black and Orange as Tusculum fumbled on two of its first three offensive plays, with the second being recovered by Catawba's Ryan Watts at the TC 42-yard line. Catawba utilized the short field and nine plays later, quarterback Reid Carlton completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keyon West. Lee Brackman's kick gave Catawba a 7-0 lead with 9:26 left in the first quarter.
Tusculum drove into Catawba territory on its second possession but the drive stalled at the 38-yard line. Lancaster posted his second quick kick of the year and like his first, pinned the opposition at the one-yard line. The Catawba Indians went three-and-out and were forced to punt as TC took over in great field position at the CAT 38.
The second quarter was uneventful until the final 86 seconds as the two teams combined to score 21 points in the short time span. Catawba retook the lead at 14-7 when David Burgess scored on a seven-yard TD run with 1:26 left before halftime.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Jay Boyd returned the kick for a 95-yard touchdown to tie the game \ at 14-14 with 1:13 remaining in the period. The 95-yard return is the third longest in program history.
Catawba went three-and-out on its next series as Brandyn Bartlett recorded one of his two sacks on the day and Chris Matheus tackled Burgess for a big loss back at the Catawba seven-yard line as Tusculum called timeout with 48 seconds left. The punt was fielded by Boyd and returned 17 yards to the Catawba 28.
TC was penalized five yards, moving the football to the CAT 33-yard line. Following a TC timeout, Lancaster completed a 33-yard touchdown to Altizer with 21 seconds remaining as the Pioneers took a 21-14 lead into the locker room.
Catawba would receive the opening second half kickoff, but on the third play from scrimmage, Boyd recorded his team-leading fifth interception of the year as TC took over at their own 43.
Lancaster found Nick England on passes covering 19 and 14 yards as Tusculum moved to the Catawba 9 where the drive stalled. Tommie stepped in and connected on a 26-yard field goal to give Tusculum a 24-14 lead at the 9:20 mark of the quarter.
Catawba answered with a seven-play, 68-yard drive, capped off by a 40-yard touchdown pass from Joseph Dress to West to pull the Indians to within 24-21 with 6:39 left in the third quarter.
Tusculum scored a pair of touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. On the first play of the final period, Lancaster found Altizer again, this time on a 21-yard touchdown as Tusculum led 31-21 with 14:54 left in the game.
The Tusculum defense bowed up again and forced another Catawba punt. Altizer returned the kick 10 yards to the TC 37 and got an additional 15 yards on a Catawba personal foul penalty as the Pioneers took over at the CAT 48.
Five plays later, Lancaster completed his third TD strike to Altizer with the final one coming on a 19-yard scoring play as Tusculum led by its largest margin at 38-21 with 11:32 left.
Catawba added a touchdown with 5:04 left on a Carlton 28-yard TD pass to Burgess as the hosts trimmed the deficit to 10 (38-28).
Catawba recovered the ensuing on-sides kick, but it did not go the minimum 10 yards as TC took over at the Catawba 43. Tusculum could not convert the first down, but were able to take 71 seconds off the clock as the Catawba Indians took possession with 3:50 left.
From there the Tusculum defense got a turnover on downs and Lancaster completed a 12-yard pass to Cruell on fourth-down-and-eight to convert the first down and the Pioneers ran out the clock and seal the victory.
Catawba finished the game with 320 offensive yards (99 rush, 221 pass) as Carlton went 14-for-35 through the air for 175 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but was sacked four times on the day including twice by Brandyn Bartlett and once each by Brandon Williams and Brent Williams.
Lancaster completed passes to seven different receivers on the day. Cruell posted seven grabs for 91 yards, while England, Belle and Jordon Shippy made three receptions each for the Pioneers.
Defensively, Bartlett tallied 10 tackles, including three for loss, while Brandon Williams had seven stops, with three behind the line of scrimmage. Boyd posted five stops, including one for loss to go with a pair of pass break-ups and an interception.
Tusculum senior Cameron Thomas made four tackles, two pass break-ups and his ninth career interception, moving him into third place all-time at Tusculum. The three passed defended on the day gives him 32 for his career, which are the third-most ever by a Pioneer.
The Pioneers will close out the season next Saturday when they host arch-rival Carson-Newman University for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff from Pioneer Field.