Pioneers drop 38-14 home loss to No. 8 Lenoir-Rhyne

Pioneers drop 38-14 home loss to No. 8 Lenoir-Rhyne

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Ameen Stevens rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns to lead eighth-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne University to a 38-14 South Atlantic Conference victory at Tusculum University Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Field.

The Bears (6-0, 4-0 SAC) remain undefeated on the season as L-R churned out 409 yards offensively while holding the Pioneers to 234 total yards including minus-five yards rushing.

Lenoir-Rhyne's Dareke Young scored on the second play of the game when he got behind the Tusculum secondary and hauled in a 54-yard touchdown from Grayson Willingham to spark a 21-0 run to start the day.

Tusculum sophomore receiver Tory Ponder posted his second straight 100-yard game as he finished with a career-best 131 yards on five catches including an 80-yard touchdown to put the Pioneers on the board in the second quarter.

The Bears accounted for 295 rushing yards as a dozen different players recorded at least one rushing carry for the visitors.

Defensively, the TU duo of CJ Bartley and Jackson Cauthen each recorded season-highs with 13 tackles apiece, while Ivan Hogans tallied 11 stops.  Lenoir-Rhyne's Eric Jackson added seven tackles with one for loss, while Quentin Hayes recorded six tackles including two for loss and a sack.

On Tusculum's first possession, L-R's Dan Louba recovered a TU fumble at the Pioneer 23-yard line.  Four plays later, the Bears tacked on a second touchdown when Jace Jordan scored on a four-yard TD run.  Chase Allbaugh's kick made it a 14-0 lead with less than four minutes into the game.

Tusculum would be forced to punt on its next possession as Lenoir-Rhyne marched down the field to the TU 19.  But the Pioneer defense would step up and Malik Goodman intercepted Willingham in the end zone.

Early in the second quarter, Lenoir-Rhyne capped an 11-play, 61-yard drive as Stevens plunged through the line for a one-yard touchdown run as the Bears led 21-0 with 12:20 remaining before halftime.

The Pioneers answered on the first play of the ensuing possession as Collazo completed an 80-yard TD to Ponder at the 12:01 mark of the quarter. Eli Shepherd's kick made it a 21-7 contest. The 80-yard reception is tied for the 10th longest in school history and the first 80-plus yard completion since 2015.

Lenoir-Rhyne added a 21-yard field goal by Allbaugh and Stevens scored his second rushing TD of half on a seven-yard run with 3:36 on the clock as the Bears took a 31-7 lead into the locker room.

In the second half after TU went three-and-out on its opening possession, Lenoir-Rhyne scored on its initial drive of the half as Willingham completed a 21-yard pass to Young to the TU 25. Plus on the play the Pioneers were penalized on a targeting call as the Bears had the ball at the 12-yard line.  Stevens ran the ball four straight times and scored on a one-yard run to extend the lead to 38-7.

The remainder of the game would be a defensive stalemate until the Pioneers broke through in the final minutes as junior quarterback Hunter Weismore completed an 18-yard TD to Jacob Moss to provide the final scoring margin.

Willingham finished the game going 6-of-13 for 114 yards with a touchdown and an interception.  Collazo went 8-of-15 for 118 yards with a touchdown, while Weismore posted 121 yards going 9-of-22 with a TD and an interception.

Tusculum punter Andrew Cantrell accounted for 10 punts for an average of 37.2 yards including a long of 51 yards.  His 10 punt attempts match the 10 he had last year against the Bears. The 10 attempts are also one off the school record and tied for fourth-most in program history.

The Pioneers will be on the road next Saturday when they face SAC newcomer Virginia-Wise (1-5, 0-4 SAC) for a 1 p.m. contest.