Southern Virginia Falls to Kentucky Christian in Season Opener

KCU quarterback Graham Johnston attempts to break free from Southern Virginia tacklers Saturday night. Photo by Justo Photography.

Written by Chris Pendleton

BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University football team opened its 2011 season with a home loss Saturday evening as Kentucky Christian defeated the Knights 20-6.

Southern Virginia struggled to find a rhythm offensively never leading in the game despite outgaining Kentucky Christian 305-270 in total offense for the evening.

"Our defense played winning football," said Southern Virginia's third-year head coach DeLane Fitzgerald following the Knights' season-opening loss. "But we had a lack of urgency and execution on offense that hurt us tonight."

Turnovers hampered Southern Virginia early as the Knights fumbled on their first play from scrimmage leading to a KCU touchdown only 2:43 into the first quarter.

Thirteen seconds and two plays into its next offensive possesion, Southern Virginia committed its second turnover of the game as sophomore quarterback Mitch Stevenson (Muskogee, Okla.) was intercepted in his own territory giving Kentucky Christian another early scoring opportunity.

Southern Virginia's defense, however, dug in and turned Kentucky Christian over on downs after KCU decided to go for it on a fourth-and-1 at the Southern Virginia 13-yard line. 

From that point forward, the game turned into a defensive struggle as neither team would score again until late in the third quarter when Stevenson pulled Southern Virginia within one point of KCU (7-6) on a two-yard scramble to the end zone after a broken play.

Despite struggling with his passing game during his first career start—Stevenson completed 19 of 44 passes with three interceptions—the sophomore quarterback was Southern Virginia's most effective weapon on the ground Saturday night running for 53 yards on 15 rushes and scoring the Knights' lone touchdown.

Southern Virginia could not pull even with Kentucky Christian after Stevenson's score, however, as KCU stopped freshman running back Jerry Washington (Gloucester, Va.) on the Knights' two-point conversion attempt.

During Southern Virginia's ensuing kickoff, Kentucky Christian responded with a 38-yard return into SVU territory, followed by a 47-yard touchdown run by Deonte Merricks on the next play making it 14-6 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

Southern Virginia was unable to score again and allowed Kentucky Christian its third touchdown of the night with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Kentucky Christian's first-year head coach, Mike Furrey, opened his KCU coaching career with the university's first victory over Southern Virginia as SVU had taken the previous three meetings between the two schools. 

Senior captain and linebacker Tommy Davidson (Paradise, Calif.) was a bright spot for Southern Virginia on defense leading the Knights in both unassisted tackles (10) and total tackles (13). Davidson's 13 tackles Saturday night moved him to 222 tackles during his four-year career at Southern Virginia—only 60 tackles shy of Matt Mellor's all-time record.

KCU's Merricks led all offensive players with 163 rushing yards on 29 carries.

Southern Virginia football will look to regroup from Saturday's loss before it travels to Pikeville, Ky. next Saturday, Sep. 3 to take on the Pikeville College Bears.