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Pioneers explode for 38-10 win at Limestone in SAC opener

Bryce Moore passed for 287 yards and 3 TDs in Tusculum's 38-10 win at Limestone (photo by Dom Donnelly)
Bryce Moore passed for 287 yards and 3 TDs in Tusculum's 38-10 win at Limestone (photo by Dom Donnelly)

GAFFNEY, S.C. --- Tusculum University quarterback Bryce Moore passed for 287 yards and three touchdowns as the Pioneers posted a 38-10 victory at Limestone College Saturday afternoon at The Reservation in the South Atlantic Conference opener for both programs.

Tusculum (1-2, 1-0 SAC) scored the first 38 points of the contest, including 35 in the opening half, handing the Saints (0-3, 0-1 SAC) their 15th consecutive loss dating back to 2017.

Gaffney, South Carolina native Jordon Shippy led all players with 87 rushing yards on 18 carries including a touchdown in his homecoming to his old prep stadium.  Sophomore Ajay Belanger was TU's top receiving target as he hauled five catches for 117 yards and two scores.

Tusculum scored 21 points in the opening quarter as the Pioneers tallied TD drives on its first two possessions and sophomore CJ Bartley returned an interception 28 yards for TU's third score of the day.  The Tusculum defense recorded three interceptions on the afternoon and finished with 10 passes defended.

The Pioneers won the coin toss and deferred their choice to the second half.  On the opening kickoff, TU kicker Alan Andrzejewski pulled off a successful on-side kick to the left side which was hauled in by John Smith as he sprinted to the Limestone 49-yard line. Belanger hauled in a 15-yard pass from Moore to TU's first score at the 12:16 mark of the quarter. The six-play drive was aided by a face mask penalty by the Saints and a 14-yard completion from Moore to Jacob Moss.

Limestone converted a pair of first downs on its first time with the football, but the Tusculum defense locked in and forced a punt.  Shippy sprinted for 25 yards on the first play of the drive and Moore called his own number on a quarterback keeper for a 20-yard game to the LC 42.  Another face mask penalty on the hosts moved TU to the 27 and from there, Shippy was successful on three running plays culminating with an 11-yard TD run with 7:52 left in the frame. An Eli Shepherd kick made it a 14-0 game.

On the ensuing Limestone possession, the Saints ran two plays and LC quarterback DJ Phillips was picked off by Barkley to give TU the 21-0 advantage at the 7:05 mark of the first quarter.

Limestone went three and out and Tusculum would get the ball at the TU 43 following a 23-yard punt return from Dee Alford.  Moore was sacked on second down setting up a third and 18 situation.  But Moore scrambled and found Maurice Gomillion on a 33-yard completion into Saints' territory to the LC 32.  A TU holding penalty and a negative rushing play pushed the visitors back again setting up third down and 26 to go.  Moore came up with another explosive play, a 25-yard completion to Belanger setting up fourth and one from the 23. But Shippy was stopped for no gain by the Limestone duo of Devione Williams and Dalton Yates as TU turned the ball over on downs.

Both teams would come up empty on their next two possessions before Tusculum broke through with a six-play, 65-yard drive with Moore and Belanger connecting again on a 39-yard TD toss with 4:13 left before halftime.  Moore went 4-for-4 on the drive.

Tusculum added their final score of the half as Deshawn Davis made an acrobatic catch on the far sideline and fell into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left on the clock to cap seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive as TU carried the 35-0 lead into the locker room.

The Pioneers took the kickoff to start the second half and following Gomillion's 25-yard return, Limestone was whistled for a face mask penalty as TU started from the LC 49.  Shippy sprinted 27 yards to the 22-yard line before the drive stalled. Shepherd came on and boomed a 44-yard field goal, the first of his collegiate career.

The Saints went three-and-out and TU drove deep into Limestone territory again before Ken'Darius Frederick picked off Joaquin Collazo in the back of the end zone.  Limestone got on the board following a 15-play, 64-yard drive as Thomas Cook converted a 33-yard field goal for a 38-3 score with 4:19 in the stanza.

Tusculum would be forced to punt but TU got the ball back when Phillips was intercepted by Alford for his first pick of the season and sixth of his career (T8th in TU history).

Midway through the fourth quarter, Limestone back-up quarterback Alec Morton completed a 49-yard strike to Cedric Smith to provide the final scoring margin.

The Pioneers finished the contest with 415 yards offensively while the Saints were held to 238 yards on the day.  The Pioneers dominated the time of possession once again finishing with 36:48, for the third-most in school history.  Tusculum recorded 25 first downs to Limestone's dozen.

Tusculum linebacker Ivan Hogans accounted for four tackles, while Xavier Clemmons and Bartley also tallied four stops apiece.

The Pioneers return to action next Saturday when they play their third road contest in four weeks to start the season as TU travels to Newberry College for a 1 p.m. contest at Setzler Field.

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