Football Outlasts Tusculum in the Opener

URBANA, Ohio (September 1, 2012) – A pair of high-powered offenses were on display on the opening Saturday of the college football season at Urbana University Stadium. A total of 86 points were scored as Urbana outlasted its non-conference opponent Tusculum College by a score of 53-33.

After punting on its first two possessions, the Blue Knights found pay dirt on four straight possessions. A 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback D.J. Mendenhall to Joe Webb put the home team ahead 34-0 with about 2 minutes to play in the first half.

Urbana appeared to be on its way to an easy rout, but Tusculum had other ideas. The Pioneers finally crossed the goal line on a Bo Cordell 5-yard pass to 6-foot-10 tight end Wesley Powell with 13 ticks left on the clock in the first half.

With the first half all but over, Tusculum shocked Urbana with an onside kick. The onside recovery did not lead to any points in the final 13 seconds but it sent a message that the Pioneers weren’t about to lie down in the second half.

In the opening minute of the second half, Tusculum struck again. Cordell connected with Ken Funnye on a 54-yard score to trim the deficit down to 22.

Urbana answered on its next drive. Mendenhall scrambled for his third rushing touchdown of the game, one shy of the school record set by Mendenhall against Tusculum in 2010.

Comfortably ahead by four scores in the second half, Urbana’s defense let its guard down. Cordell, who finished with 399 yards passing on 58 attempts, led his Pioneers on three unanswered touchdown drives. The third drive was capped by a Cordell 20-yard TD to Johnathon Diliberto, cutting the lead to 40-33 with 3:58 to play.

After seeing their 34-point lead whittled down to just 7, the Blue Knights responded on their next drive. It took Mendenhall and the Blue Knights just 5 plays to go 78 yards for a game-clinching score. University of Buffalo transfer running back Jeffvon Gill iced the game with a 29-yard scamper into the end zone. Gill led all rushers in the game with 126 yards on 19 carries, including two touchdowns, in his first action as a Blue Knight.

On the ensuing kickoff, freshman Walter Miliner (pictured left) stripped Xzanvion Smith and recovered the fumble at the 32-yard line. Four David Hill rushes later and Urbana found the end zone for an eighth time. Hill (pictured right) also ran for 120 yards on the day. The Blue Knights outgained the Pioneers 313 to 112 on the ground. Mendenhall added 54 rushing yards to go with his 3 rushing touchdowns. The junior signal caller threw for an additional 305 yards on 22 of 30 passing. His favorite target was Webb (pictured left), who finished with 151 yards on 9 catches. Nate Wilburn-Ogletree racked up 91 yards on 7 catches. He also found the end zone once.

Defensively, the Blue Knights were led by freshman Jalen Crosby’s 11 tackles and 1 pass break-up. Defensive lineman Kyle Ferguson racked up 10 tackles, including a sack, and linebacker Lamar Ross had 8 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. Preseason All-American defensive end Perry Jenkins (pictured right) finished with 7 stops, including a sack, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a blocked PAT.

Next Saturday, Urbana (1-0) hosts Seton Hill University. The Blue Knights beat the Griffins 40-21 in Week 10 last season. Urbana is 5-0 all-time against Seton Hill. Kickoff is slated for 12:00 p.m. at Urbana University Stadium. [Box Score]