Tornados overcome by fourth quarter surge at Virginia UnionSeptember 5, 2015
RICHMOND, Va. – The homestanding Virginia Union Panthers exploded for 21 points in the fourth quarter, coming from behind to defeat Brevard 35-21 in the season opener for both teams Saturday.
The Tornados (0-1) clung to a 21-14 lead as the fourth quarter began, but the Panthers (1-0) used Lamar Webster’s third rushing touchdown of the day to knot the game at 21. Virginia Union forced a turnover five plays later, picking off a pass in Brevard territory, and took the lead for good moments later as Shawheem Dowdy raced 27 yards to paydirt on a pass from Andre Coble.
The Panthers added a 37-yard scamper by Hakeem Holland to stretch their margin to 14 points. Virginia Union’s suffocating defense, which ranked in the top 10 in Division II in five categories last season, limited the Tornados to 160 yards of total offense, their lowest output since managing 83 total yards at Lenoir-Rhyne on October 5, 2013.
Anthony Washington paced the Tornados’ offense with 57 rushing yards on just four carries, including a career-long 49-yard jaunt. Redshirt freshman Tyler Gregory, making his first career start, added 16 yards on 15 carries, but scored twice on the ground and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to freshman C.T. Frederick.
Gionni Gibbs, a transfer from Globe Institute of Technology making his first appearance in a Brevard uniform, led the team with six tackles from his strong safety position. The Tornados gave up 330 yards of offense, over 70 yards under the Panthers’ 2014 average. Quintrell Mathis pounced on a fumble caused by Jason Nieradka late in the second quarter as the Panthers attempted to counter a Brevard touchdown before the half.
The Tornados found themselves down 14-0 with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter after Webster’s eight-yard touchdown run to cap an 81-yard scoring drive. But Brevard answered with a drive covering 70 yards in seven plays, using Anthony’s 49-yard run on a 4th and 8 play to drive to the two-yard line. Gregory’s one-yard scoring run two plays later to halve the Panther lead.
Seven minutes later, Gregory struck again with his scoring strike to Frederick. The Tornados’ defense stiffened, not allowing Virginia Union to gain a single yard on their drive following Brevard’s first score. A short punt gave Brevard the ball at the Panthers’ 47-yard line, and eight plays later Frederick broke free into the end zone.
The first drive of the third quarter gave Brevard 21 unanswered points after Gregory ran 36 yards to cap a 12-play, 77-yard drive that took 7:16 off the clock. It was Brevard’s longest drive of the contest, contributing to the Tornados’ 6:36 advantage in time of possession. The trend was familiar for the Tornados, who finished second nationally in time of possession in 2014 after averaging 35:31 per game last season.
The loss drops Brevard to 5-3 since the football program’s reinstatement in 2006 against competition from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, with two of those losses coming against Virginia Union. The Tornados are also 2-4 in games played inside the state of Virginia, with two losses to Liberty and one to UVa-Wise coming previously inside the Commonwealth.
The Tornados return to action next Saturday against Bowie State at 1:00 p.m. in Brevard's home opener.
Featured image courtesy of Tommy Moss.