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Pioneers travel to SAC rival Newberry Saturday for gridron clash

Pioneers travel to SAC rival Newberry Saturday for gridron clash

GAME NOTES

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University football team will be looking to make it two in a row when the Sons of Davy Crockett venture to Newberry College for a South Atlantic Conference battle with the Wolves.  Kick-off time from historic Setzler Field is slated for 1 p.m.

Tusculum (1-2, 1-0 SAC) captured its first victory of the season last week with a convincing 38-10 road win at Limestone College in the league lid-lifter for both teams.

RECAPPING LAST WEEK

The Pioneers racked up 415 yards of total offense including 287 passing yards from redshirt freshman Bryce Moore as TU snapped a four-game losing streak to record its first win of the year.

Tusculum scored the first 38 points of the contest, including 35 in the opening half, handing Limestone its 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 at his old prep stadium.  Sophomore Ajay Belanger was TU's top receiving target as he hauled in five catches for a career-best 117 yards and two touchdowns.

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 Pioneer defense held the Saints to 238 yards on the day while the TU offense dominated the time of possession once again, controlling the football for 36:48, the third longest time of possession in school history. Tusculum also held a 25-12 advantage in first downs.  Greeneville redshirt freshman kicker Eli Shepherd accounted for eight points on the day going 5-for-5 on his extra points and connected on a 44-yard field goal on his first collegiate attempt.

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

LOOKING AHEAD

The Pioneers face a dangerous Newberry (0-3, 0-1 SAC) squad that enters this week's SAC clash winless and have lost four straight dating back to last year.

Like Tusculum, the Wolves dropped a pair of contests to Gulf South Conference foes to start the year.  Newberry opened with a 17-7 loss at North Greenville before dropping a 30-28 decision to Florida Tech in the Wolves' home opener.  Last week, Newberry surrendered over 539 yards of total offense, including 363 on the ground in a 34-17 loss at eighth-ranked and defending SAC champion Lenoir-Rhyne.

Bryce Moore is slated to get his third straight start under center when TU travels to Newberry.  The Jefferson, Georgia product has passed for 448 yards with four touchdowns and one interception while also gaining 51 rushing yards on 13 carries for a 3.9 yards per rush average.

Jordon Shippy continues to be TU's top rusher averaging 56.3 yards per contest with one touchdown. He is also Tusculum's second-leading receiver with eight receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown catch.  Sophomore Ajay Belanger is pacing the Pioneers with a team-best 14 grabs for 206 yards and two scores.

Defensively, Ivan Hogans is once again TU's defensive leader with 21 tackles in his first three contests including four stops for loss. The 2018 All-SAC and All-Region linebacker has posted two more tackles in each of his 23 career games.  He enters this Saturday's contest at Newberry with 166 career tackles to his credit.

Sophomore linebacker Jackson Cauthen is second on the roster with 16 tackles, while Dee Alford coming in third with 13 tackles with an interception and three pass break-ups.  Last Saturday at Limestone, Alford posted his sixth career interception which are tied for the eighth-most ever by a Pioneer.

The Tusculum defense is ranked in the top four of the league in rushing defense (103.7 ypg – 2nd in SAC), team passing efficiency defense (114.38 – 3rd in SAC) and total defense (332.7 ypg – 4th in SAC). The Pioneers lead the conference with its six interceptions, but TU has yet to record a sack this year.

THE SERIES

The 22nd renewal of the Tusculum/Newberry football rivalry will be held this week. The series, which began in 1998, has Tusculum holding an 11-10 advantage including back-to-back victories by the Pioneers including last year's 14-0 TU homecoming win and a 32-31 double-overtime win by TU in their last trip to Newberry in 2017.

Tusculum won six of the first seven meetings of the series, including five in a row from 2000-2004.  Newberry answered with three consecutive wins from 2005-2007, before TU followed with back-to-back wins in 2008 and 2009.  Since 2009, the Wolves have won seven of the last nine meetings, including a 37-10 victory in 2016 in their last trip to Greeneville.

Ten of the 21 previous meetings have been decided by seven points or less, including five by at least a field goal, including a 16-14 Tusculum win over Newberry in 2014 at Pioneer Field.  The Pioneers trailed 14-3 before rallying with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.  But there have been blowouts in the series as well with three decisions being by 30 or more.

It has been a series where the visiting team has enjoyed success.  In games played in Greeneville, Newberry is 6-5, while Tusculum owns a 6-4 advantage in the series in contests played at Newberry.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

Tusculum's Dee Alford and David Johnson are listed in this week's NCAA Division II statistics. 

Alford, a senior from Griffin, Georgia is eighth in the country in punt returns averaging 17.1 yards per return.  His return average is the third highest in a TU single-season (min. 10 att.) while his 188 punt return yards are already ninth in the TU record book this year. 

Johnson (Greenwood, S.C.) is 24th in the nation in passes defended per game, tallying 1.7 per contest (2nd in SAC). 

As a team, Tusculum leads the country in fewest fumbles lost (0), 6th in time of possession (35:52), 9th in passes intercepted (6), 12th in kickoff return average (27.23) and 25th in punt return average (14.08).

PIONEER SPORTS NETWORK

Saturday's game will be broadcast on the Pioneer Sports Network. Join the "Voice of the Pioneers" Brian Stayton, along with Joe Byrd and Nathan Humbard as they describe all the action. Listen locally in Greene County on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM and on-line at www.TusculumPioneers.com.  The Pioneer Pre-Game Show begins at noon with kickoff set for 1 p.m. from Setzler Field.

UP NEXT

After playing three of its first four games on the road, the Pioneers will play five of its next six contests at home beginning with next Saturday's Homecoming game against nationally-ranked Wingate University. The Oct. 5 game with the Bulldogs is set for 2 p.m. from the Niswonger Sports Complex and Pioneer Field.

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"TUSCULUM WILL PREPARE STUDENT-ATHLETES TO BECOME PRINCIPLED LEADERS WHO ARE CONTRIBUTING CITIZENS AND CHAMPIONS IN LIFE BY INSTILLING THE HIGHEST VALUES OF CHARACTER, INTEGRITY, AND SPORTSMANSHIP."

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