WISE, Va. --- Bryce Moore threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score as Tusculum University defeated UVa-Wise 21-19 in South Atlantic Conference action at Carl Smith Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Moore hit Tory Ponder for a 25-yard score in the first quarter and Ajay Belanger for a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter, then ran 15 yards for a score in the third quarter as the Pioneers (2-5, 2-3 SAC) overcame four turnovers to snap a three-game losing streak and send the Cavaliers (1-6, 0-5 SAC) to their sixth loss in a row.
Jordon Shippy carried 29 times for 127 yards for the Pioneers while Moore added 53 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Moore was 12-for-27 through the air for 190 yards and two touchdowns along with three interceptions. The Tusculum offense controlled the ball for 35:05 and outgained UVa-Wise by a 375-253 margin.
Tanner Bernard completed 16 passes in 40 attempts for 153 yards for the Cavaliers, who scored all three of their touchdowns on the ground. UVa-Wise was just 3-for-17 on third-down conversions and allowed Tusculum to record six sacks as a team after the Pioneers had just two sacks total in their first six games.
Ponder finished with five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown for the Pioneers, while Mikael Anderson and Jamal Fisher each had four receptions for the Cavaliers. Tusculum accumulated 185 yards on the ground while holding Wise to 100 yards as a team on 34 rushing attempts.
On defense, Jahaud Russ led the Pioneers with eight total tackles and 1 1/2 sacks, while Dee Alford and David Johnson each had four pass breakups. Tusculum's secondary finished with 13 pass breakups as a team and had 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 37 yards in losses.
UVa-Wise drove quickly down the field on its first possession, as Bernard hit Eli Marks for 22 yards on the first play and Mykael Anderson for 15 yards. However, a sack on third down by Russ left the Cavaliers facing fourth and 7 at the Tusculum 32, and Dee Alford came up with an interception of Bernard and returned the ball 32 yards to the Pioneer 46.
After the turnover, Tusculum needed just three plays to take a 7-0 lead. A 31-yard pass from Moore to Shippy put the Pioneers into Cavalier territory, and on the next play, Moore found a wide-open Ponder for a 25-yard touchdown with 11:06 left in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, the Pioneers moved across midfield late in the first quarter but were pushed back by a penalty. The Cavaliers' defense then came up with a turnover on an interception by Demetrius Mann and a 25-yard return into Tusculum territory. UVa-Wise needed just two plays to score as a 25-yard run by Terrence Lambert was followed by an eight-yard touchdown run by Garrett Cropp, but Daryian Basco missed the extra point as the Pioneers retained the lead at 7-6 with 3:03 left in the 1st quarter.
The Pioneer defense forced a Cavalier punt early in the second quarter, and Tusculum moved 64 yards in five plays to extend their lead. An 18-yard pass from Moore to Deshawn Davis crossed the ball onto the UVa-Wise side of the field, and two plays later Moore found Belanger down the right side for a one-handed catch and a 35-yard touchdown. The extra point by Eli Shepherd pushed the Tusculum lead to 14-6 with 12:15 to go in the first half.
Tusculum's next two drives would end in turnovers, as Rodney Hudson intercepted Moore at the UVA-Wise 30 midway through the quarter and Bryce Harty sacked Moore on fourth-and-6 at the Cavalier 30 with three minutes to go in the half. After the turnover on downs, the Cavaliers marched briskly down the field, highlighted by runs of 32 yards by J'Quan Anderson and 11 yards by Lambert. Anderson capped the drive with a one-yard run with eight seconds left in the half, but the two-point conversion failed and Tusculum led 14-12 at intermission.
The Pioneers caught a break on the first possession of the third quarter as Ponder fumbled after a 12-yard catch, but a Cavalier player missed on a scoop attempt and Belanger recovered at the Wise 48. A 15-yard run by Shippy and a 10-yard pass from Moore to Ponder brought the Pioneers down to the UVa-Wise 15, and Moore scrambled to the right pylon for the remaining 15 yards and a 21-12 Pioneer lead with 9:58 left in the third quarter.
Following another UVa-Wise punt, Moore went back to work with his legs as he ran for 44 yards on a keeper. Moore then hit Shippy for 12 yards and found Jacob Moss for 16 yards on third-and-12 as the Pioneers drove inside the UVa-Wise 5. On the next play, Shippy was stood up by Veronta Jones at the goal line and the ball popped into the hands of Wise defensive lineman Chavon Fields, who rumbled 66 yards into Tusculum territory before being hauled down.
After the fumble, the Tusculum defense stopped the Cavaliers on downs to regain possession at their 30 with 4:14 left in the third quarter. However, Moore was intercepted by AJ Felton on the next play for the fourth turnover of the game by the Pioneers as Wise took over at its 27. The Cavaliers were again forced to punt, and Alford returned Drew Vermillion's boot a career-long 52 yards to the UVa-Wise 28. Tusculum was unable to move the ball, and Shepherd missed wide right on a 40-yard field goal attempt with 1:12 left in the quarter.
Tusculum's defense continued to stifle the Wise offense, and the Pioneers took over at the Cavalier 34 with 9:54 left. Shippy carried six times for 29 yards down to the UVa-Wise 5, but the drive stalled and Shepherd came on to boot a 22-yard field goal, but a bad snap prevented an attempt as the Tusculum lead remained 21-12 with 5:58 to go.
The Cavaliers regained possession with 4:03 left after a Tusculum punt and moved into Pioneer territory on a fourth-down run by Shaheim Revel and a 12-yard pass from Bernard to Fisher. A penalty moved the Cavaliers to the Tusculum 14 with under two minutes left, and Revel capped the 13-play, 80-yard drive with a three-yard run to bring UVa-Wise within 21-19 with 1:32 left. The Cavs attempted an onside kick after the touchdown, but Alford fell on the ball at the Pioneer 45 and Tusculum ran out the clock.
Lambert was the leading rusher for UVa-Wise with 46 yards on seven carries, while J'Quan Anderson added 31 yards on six attempts. Cropp, who lined up as quarterback when on the field for the Cavaliers, ran five times for 11 yards and a touchdown.
Ivan Hogans, Jonovan Lowe, Nick Jackson and Malik Goodman each had six tackles for the Pioneers, with Lowe making two pass breakups and Goodman a tackle for loss. For Wise, Austin Hicks and Jones each had 10 tackles with Jones forcing a pair of fumbles.
Andrew Cantrell punted four times for Tusculum with an average of 39.8 yards and two inside the 20. Vermillion punted 10 times for a 40.5 yard average for UVa-Wise, but just one inside the Tusculum 20.
Tusculum will begin a three-game homestand next Saturday when the Pioneers host UNC Pembroke for a non-conference game at 1:30 p.m. at Pioneer Field.