GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Long-time mountain rivals Tusculum University and the University of Virginia's College at Wise will square off on the collegiate gridiron in a South Atlantic Conference contest for the first time ever as the Pioneers travel to Carl Smith Stadium this Saturday. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. (ET).
Both teams are looking to snap slow starts and begin the second half of the season on a high note. Both have 1-5 overall records and both are looking to end losing streaks. Tusculum has dropped its last three outings while UVa-Wise enters this weekend with a five-game losing streak.
RECAPPING LAST WEEK
The Pioneers (1-5, 1-3 SAC) are coming off a 38-14 home loss to eighth-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne University. Lenoir-Rhyne jumped out to a 21-0 lead before the Pioneers could get on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. L-R accounted for 409 yards offensively while Tusculum was held to 234 yards including minus five yards rushing thanks to five quarterback sacks.
Tusculum sophomore receiver Tory Ponder posted his second straight 100-yard game as he finished with a career-best 131 receiving yards on five receptions including an 80-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman Joaquin Collazo, which is tied for the 10th longest completion in program history.
Defensively, the Tusculum duo of CJ Bartley and Jackson Cauthen each recorded season-highs with 13 tackles apiece, while junior linebacker Ivan Hogans tallied 11 stops for his first double-digit tackle game of 2019.
Collazo went 8-of-15 for 118 yards and a touchdown while junior quarterback Hunter Weismore saw action in the final quarter as he went 9-of-22 for 121 yards with a TD and an interception.
UVa-Wise jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter but surrendered 30 unanswered points in a 30-7 road loss at Newberry College last Saturday.
The Cavaliers were out-gained by a 340-112 margin by the Wolves with Wise running back accounting for 61 yards of the offense on his 17 carries. Quarterback Lendon Redwine went 14-of-29 for 82 yards, but was sacked seven times and intercepted twice.
Junior strong safety Marcus Tarrer led the UVa-Wise defensive efforts with 11 tackles including 3.5 for loss.
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS
Senior tailback Jordon Shippy has been a dual threat offensively, both as TU's top rusher and is currently third on the squad in receptions and fourth in receiving yardage. Shippy is averaging 61.7 rushing yards per contest and 4.1 yards per carry while running for three touchdowns. The 2018 All-SAC standout has also posted 14 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore wideout Tory Ponder has emerged as one of the hottest players in the Tusculum line-up of late. He leads the team with 338 receiving yards and three touchdown catches while his 16 receptions are second on the squad. Sophomore Ajay Belanger leads TU with 23 receptions and is second with 287 yards and two scores.
The offensive line corps has been battling injuries throughout the season and has had a different starting five in all six outings thus far. All-Region tackle Keveon Broadwater has been the anchor of the group while junior Bailey Herring has been solid at center for the Pioneers.
Three different players have seen action at quarterback for Tusculum this season including the redshirt duo of Joaquin Collazo and Bryce Moore, while junior Hunter Weismore has seen action in three games off the bench. Moore garnered four consecutive starts but was injured in the Wingate game two weeks ago and his availability is in question for this week. Moore has passed for 592 yards and completed 51.5 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions. Collazo earned the start in the season-opener at Delta State and also got the starting nod last week against Lenoir-Rhyne. He has thrown for a team-high five touchdowns with 564 yards and a .478 completion percentage with four interceptions. Weismore has thrown for 125 yards with a TD and an interception.
Junior linebacker Jackson Cauthen leads the Pioneers with his 46 tackles including a team-best seven for loss with one sack and an interception. All-Region linebacker Ivan Hogans is second on the team with 41 tackles including five for loss and three QB hurries. He enters this week's action needing 14 tackles to become the 20th player in program history with 200 career tackles to his credit.
Seven different players have recorded an interception this season including sophomore CJ Bartley who has also made 28 tackles with two for loss with a sack and two QB hurries.
SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS
After three straight road games, UVa-Wise returns home in quest of their first South Atlantic Conference win and are also looking to snap a five-game skid.
Offensive woes have plagued coach Dane Damron's UVa-Wise squad. The Cavs have scored more than 14 points just once this year, a 40-22 win over Chowan in the first game of the season. Last week, the team tallied 112 yards of total offense as Newberry held the ball for nearly 35 minutes in a 30-7 victory.
Tight end Seth Phillips has been a strong point for UVa-Wise as the sophomore leads the team with 15 catches and has made multiple catches in four of the season's first six games. Quarterback Garrett Cropp scored his second rushing touchdown of the season as he came off the bench to take snaps on the goal line while Lendon Redwine made his second straight start behind center.
On defense, redshirt junior Marcus Tarrer is coming off one of the best games of his collegiate career. The defensive back posted a career-high 3.5 tackles for loss as part of an 11-tackle performance. The Richmond, Va. product leads the team and the South Atlantic Conference with 54 tackles. Up front, Rondre Knowles-Tenner and Chavon Fields have been recording sacks from their defensive line positions. Knowles-Tenner leads the team with 4.5 sacks while Fields has posted four sacks this fall.
Several parts of UVa-Wise's special teams unit has performed well. Freshman punter Drew Vermillion is averaging 38.53 yards per punt while junior punt returner Demetrius Mann is averaging 31.88 yards per punt return with two punt return touchdowns to tie the single-season UVa-Wise record. On kick returns, Marquis Hamilton is posting 29.13 yards per return, including a long of 66 yards. AJ Felton Jr. leads the nation with three blocked kicks and has tied the single-season school record for blocked kicks.
The 11th renewal of the Tusculum/UVa-Wise football series will be held this week as the Pioneers and Cavaliers square off at Smith Stadium. UVa-Wise leads the series 6-4 including a 13-10 double overtime win at Tusculum in the last meeting in 2016.
September 7, 1991 was a monumental date for both football programs. For Tusculum, it was the program's first game in 41 years since the University dropped the sport in 1950. For UVa-Wise (then Clinch Valley College), it was the first football game in its school's history. The Cavaliers came away with a 13-8 victory.
Tusculum went 0-10 during that 1991 campaign, but the Pioneers answered in its 1992 season-opener and a rematch with UVa-Wise in Greeneville where TU came away with a 24-13 victory on Sept. 5, the program's first win since the sport's reinstatement.
UVa-Wise won the 1993 meeting 37-31, before Tusculum answered with a 34-31 win in 1994 at Pioneer Field. The Cavaliers ran a string of three consecutive victories, including back-to-back wins in Greeneville. TU posted back-to-back wins in Wise, a 30-7 victory in 1998 and a 47-28 triumph in 2013 in the Pioneers last visit to UVa-Wise. In that game, TU fended off a 21-0 deficit for the largest comeback win in recorded school history.
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 with the pregame show beginning at 12 p.m.