Written by Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The Southern Virginia University football team won its home opener at Robert E. "Bobby" Williams Field defeating North Carolina Wesleyan 24-14 Saturday night earning its first victory of the young 2012 season.
With Saturday's win, Southern Virginia (1-1) earned its first victory of 2012 and improved upon its home opener record to 3-7 in the program's ten year history, giving NCAA Division III North Carolina Wesleyan (1-1) its first loss of the season.
The play of the special teams for both squads was an important part of the game on Saturday. The Battling Bishops started it off as Dwayne Hollis returned a punt from Brenton Estorffe (Mooloolaba, Australia) for 58 yards to score the first points of the game and give North Carolina Wesleyan a 6-0 lead in the middle of the first quarter.
Following the touchdown by Hollis, the extra point attempt by visiting kicker B.G. Howell was blocked by senior captain Dylan Hall (Redding, Calif.) who also recorded 1.5 sacks in the game.
Early in the second quarter, the Battling Bishops marched down into opposing territory but could not put any points on the board after field goal attempts by Howell from 36 and 29 yards away were blocked by senior defensive lineman Luke Herndon (Mechanicsville, Va.) and sophomore linebacker Robert Robbins (Glendale, Ariz.) respectively.
The Southern Virginia offense found some life after the blocked kicks as junior quarterback Mitch Stevenson (Muskogee, Okla.)−who finished with 179 yards passing yards and two touchdowns−moved the team down the field on an 80-yard drive in the second quarter capped by 25-yard strike in the air to freshman wide receiver Frank Taitano (Washington, D.C.) to take the lead 7-6.
Senior wide receiver Cameron Williams (Sacramento, Calif.) started his banner second half for the Knights as he widened the scoring margin with a momentum-swinging 58-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter to put Southern Virginia ahead 14-6.
The North Carolina Wesleyan offense got back on the scoreboard by a 10-yard touchdown run from quarterback John Jackson and a two-point conversion with just over one minute left in the third quarter to knot the game at 14-14.
Early in the fourth quarter, senior kicker Brett Murray (Hollywood, Fla.) made a 23-yard field goal to give the Knights a 17-14 lead that would not be relinquished.
Under two minutes later, C. Williams−who had a game-high 118 all-purpose yards including 60 yards receiving−continued his heroics with a 40-yard touchdown catch from Stevenson to make the final score of the game and give Southern Virginia a 24-14 victory over the visiting Battling Bishops.
"Everybody worked together tonight to find a way to win the game," said head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "Our special teams played a key role in the victory and we focused on what we could control."
Although the Knights offense was outgained 338 to 319 yards of total offense, the defense held its opponent's offense to one touchdown while keeping North Carolina Wesleyan's ground attack at bay giving up 71 yards.
The Southern Virginia defense was led by junior linebacker Dakoda Winsor (Richland, Wash.) and sophomore Matt Gregory (Staunton, Va.) who grabbed one interception apiece and recorded 12 and 9 total tackles respectively.
Southern Virginia gained its first win over North Carolina Wesleyan tonight having lost the previous two meetings in 2005 (15-36) and 2006 (7-42).
Southern Virginia football will travel to Ferrum, Va. next Saturday on Sep. 15 at 1 p.m. EDT to face its second straight USA South Athletic Conference opponent in Ferrum College.