Brevard, N.C. - Michael Crumbaker found a wide-open Eric Watts on third down in overtime for the winning touchdown as the Tornados brought home their first South Atlantic Conference home win over the visiting Tusculum College Pioneers, 27-24.
The win clinches the Tornados first winning season in modern school history as the Tornados (6-1, 2-1 SAC) racked up 236 yards on the ground, led by quarterback Michael Crumbaker with 21 carries for 72 yards. Shaton Pratt carried the ball 12 times for the Tornados, finding pay dirt once from one yard out as he went for 61 yards with a long of 34 on the day.
In the air, Crumbaker went 3-4, finding Watts twice for 67 yards and the game-winning touchdown, while Justin Fleming hauled in the other Crumbaker offering, going 27 yards up the seam on the play.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tornados were led by their pair of Preseason First Team All-SAC linebackers as both Stanley Jones and Brandon Rawls recorded 12 tackles on the day with Jones making two of his stops behind the line of scrimmage and Rawls picking up half a sack.
Michael Gist got back on track this week in the passing game, picking off a pass from Bo Cordell early in the first quarter and returning it 39 yards for a score. Gist came into the game leading the SAC with four interceptions, scored his third touchdown of the season and has racked up 157 return yards this season.
Tusculum (1-5, 0-3 SAC) was led by their freshman quarterback as Cordell went 29 of 48 for 297 yards through the air with the one interception. Cordell was also the leading rusher, picking up 37 yards on the ground.
When Cordell connected, his favorite targets were Marcus Foster, 10 catches for 45 yards, and Nate Binder, five catches for 129 yards.
On the defensive side, Marcus Jackson picked up eight tackles with one going for loss, while Zachary Norman had seven solo tackles.
The Tornados opened up the game, winning the coin toss and electing to receive the ball, marching down the field on seven plays, going 69 yards in 3:27 with the drive capped off by Pratt’s one-yard plunge.
On Tusculum’s first possession, Cordell found tight end Jarrell NeSmith over the middle, but the pass bounced on the normally reliable hands of the senior. Gist jumped on the second attempt on the pass out into the flat, returning the ball 39 yards for the score as Brevard jumped out to a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
The Pioneers rebounded from the quick turnover, opening up their second drive on their 42-yard line. 12 plays and 42 yards late, Gareth Rowlands drove the ball through the uprights from 34-yards out as Tusculum cut into the deficit, 14-3 with 6:44 left in the first quarter.
Penalties marred the Tornados next drive and they were forced to punt from deep within their end zone.
Tusculum again capitalized on the short field, going seven plays and 35 yards before the Tornados defense stiffened up, keeping the Pioneers out of the end zone, but allowing Rowlands to connect from 20-yards out to cut the lead to 14-6.
The Pioneers continued their run, holding the Tornados to short drive and forcing a punt, but sophomore punter/wide receiver Eric Watts forced the next Tusculum drive to start at their 20 with a booming 54-yard punt.
Cordell wasted no time in launching one to Binder, going to him for 74 yards as the senior wide receiver was finally chased down at the Tornados eight-yard line by safety Donald Hudson.
The stop was only temporary as Collin Wigely dove through the pile for a one-yard touchdown and Rowlands’ extra-point put the lead at Tornados 14, Pioneers 13 with 9:21 left in the half.
The Tornados turned in one of their classic time-consuming drives to close out the opening 30 minutes as Crumbaker and Pratt both carried the ball four times on the drive before Richard Bush scampered through the line for a one-yard touchdown run to give the Tornados the 21-13 lead going into the locker room.
The score would remain the same after the third quarter as the teams traded punts and swapped field position three times in the quarter.
Tusculum attempted to break the deadlock in their opening possession of the fourth quarter, moving the ball 41 yards on 12 plays, but Rowlands 35 yard field goal was pulled wide left.
The Tornados went three-and-out on their following possession and Tusculum took the field with 7:33 left to play, moving the ball 88 yards in eight plays before Wigely found the end zone for the second time in the game, this time from three yards out. Cordell’s pass to Binder was good, completing the two-point conversion as the Pioneers tied up the game at 21 with 4:41 left.
The Tornados moved the ball into scoring position as Crumbaker found Watts for a 34-yard strike down to the Pioneers seven-yard line.
Four plays later, Chase Henry lined up for a 21-yard attempt on the left hash mark, but pulled the ball left of the goal posts with 2:03 remaining in regulation.
The score would remain the same as the teams went into overtime.
Tusculum took possession first in the extra period and helped by a Tornados face-mask penalty, had first and goal on the BC ten-yard line. The Pioneers advanced the ball up to the three and had two plays to punch it into the end zone but were denied by the Tornados and had to settle for a Rowlands 20-yard field goal to take the lead 24-21.
Needing a stop, the Pioneers defense forced the Tornados into a third-and-18 situation as a miscommunication between Crumbaker and Pratt left Brevard with the ball at the Pioneers 33-yard line, but Crumbaker on a designed rollout to the left found a wide-opened Watts at the three-yard line and the sophomore strolled into the end zone for the 27-24 win.
Brevard is back on the gridiron on Saturday, October 17th, as they host Mars Hill College. Kickoff between the local SAC rivals is set for 6 p.m. at Brevard Memorial Stadium.
Tusculum returns home to Greeneville, Tenn. to host Catawba College for an afternoon kickoff set for 2 p.m.