WISE, VA- Fans around Wise may start calling the UVa-Wise football team the comeback kids. First-year Head Coach Dane Damron‘s crew completed their third comeback of the season Thursday. The Cavaliers overcame a 19-16 fourth quarter deficit to claim a 30-19 Mountain East Conference victory over Concord University.
Thursday’s comeback for UVa-Wise (4-2, 3-2 MEC) followed a different script than the first two come from behind triumphs. The Cavs lost starting quarterbackBrycen Lee to injury in the third quarter and failed to score any points on two separate trips inside the Mountain Lions’ (2-4, 2-4 MEC) 10-yard line.
After UVa-Wise missed a field goal that would have tied the game at 19 in the opening minutes of the final stanza, the Cavs’ defense rose to the occasion. On Concord’s second play from scrimmage,Michael Tarrer forced a fumble and teammate Alvin Enahoro fell on it at the Mountain Lions’ 17-yard line.
The turnover was one of four forced by UVa-Wise in the game. Jeremy Eubank and the Cavs’ offense would capitalize on the turnover as the senior quarterback completed the drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to James Cousins. Eubank’s touchdown pass gave the hosts a lead they would not relinquish.Zach Large‘s PAT made the score 23-19 with 11:13 to play.
The strong play of the defense continued on the ensuing possession as Chris White strip Concord quarterback Brian Novak. Ed Kargbo scooped up the loose ball and returned it 14 yards to the UVa-Wise 44-yard line.
The Cavs put the game out of reach on the next offensive possession. Four straight runs by juniorJavonte Latney moved the ball to the Mountain Lions’ 41-yard line before fellow junior running backCarlton Griffith put the exclamation point on the drive with a 37-yard touchdown scamper. Large’s conversion kick gave Damron’s squad an 11-point lead at 30-19 with 3:32 to play.
Any hope of a Concord comeback was quickly snuffed out by the UVa-Wise defense. Senior linebacker Chris Flood posted back-to-back sacks to halt the drive and turn the ball back over on downs to the Cavs.
Concord got the early lead in the contest as Chaudlier Shepherd returned the opening kickoff back to the UVa-Wise 39-yard line. The kickoff return aided a Mountain Lions’ drive that stalled out at the Cavs’ 9-yard line. Zack Keaton finished the drive with a 26-yard field goal to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
UVa-Wise answered with a 59-yard drive of its own. Griffith capped the drive with his first touchdown of the game, a 12-yard touchdown reception off the arm of Lee. Large made the PAT to give the Cavs a 7-3 lead.
The Cavs defense made their first big mark on the game on the game’s next score. Senior ‘Tray Billupsscooped up a fumble and raced 49 yards for a touchdown. Following the PAT, UVa-Wise led 14-3.
Novak would get the game back within one score when the senior fired a 28-yard touchdown pass to Paul Jones at the 1:16 mark of the second quarter. The Mountain Lions attempt to get the game within four at 14-10 was thwarted when a botch snap led to Tevin McCleave picking up the ball for UVa-Wise. The senior cornerback pitched the ball to Darius Jones who took it the distance for two points to make the score 16-9.
Keaton’s second field goal of the day, a 25-yard boot, would come with two seconds to play in the half to send the teams to intermission with the score 16-12 in favor of UVa-Wise.
The third quarter would be a defensive stalemate for both teams. The only score of the quarter would come when Shepherd evaded numerous Cav defenders on his way to an 83-yard punt return touchdown. Keaton’s PAT provided the final point of the night for the Mountain Lions and gave them a 19-16 lead.
The comeback for UVa-Wise marks the second consecutive week the team has overcome a fourth quarter deficit. With the win, the Cavs have now won three in a row for the first time since 2011; it was their first win over the Mountain Lions since 2007.
The Cavs limited the Mountain Lions to 256 yards of total offense while forcing three turnovers. Concord finished 0-3 on fourth downs in the contest while converting just six of 17 third down attempts.
Griffith finished the game with 95 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards. The Ft. Belvior native added two touchdowns in the win. Corey Hilberath finished with a game-high seven catches for 32 yards for UVa-Wise.
UVa-Wise finished the contest a perfect 3-3 on fourth down conversions.
On defense, the Cavs registered a season-best six sacks. Tarrer joined Flood with two sacks while Enahoro and Kargbo each tallied one sack. As a unit, the group finished with 14 tackles for loss and six pass break ups.
UVa-Wise limited Concord to 63 rushing yards on 39 attempts. It marked the third consecutive week an opponent failed to reach the 100-yard rushing plateau against UVa-Wise.
Concord was led by Jones who finished with 85 receiving yards and the touchdown. Shepherd had 189 all-purpose yards with his special team yardage.
Next week, UVa-Wise travels to West Liberty University. A win would give the program its first four-game winning streak since 2008.
Courtesy: UVA-Wise Athletics