Written by Chris Pendleton and Sean Dahlin
AVE MARIA, Fla.—The Southern Virginia University football team could not overcome an early deficit at Ave Maria University on Saturday as the Knights fell 49-30 to the Gyrenes, who earned the first football victory in their program's two-year history.
After Southern Virginia's (1-3) defense forced five turnovers against Ferrum last Saturday, the Knights struggled to contain the Ave Maria (1-1) offensive attack led by the Gyrenes' two quarterbacks, Drake Sutherland and Matt Novak, who combined for 248 passing yards and 212 rushing yards in front of their home crowd. The duo was also directly involved in six of the Ave Maria's seven touchdowns on the afternoon.
Wide receiver Dewayne Beamon (Eastern Wayne, N.C.) had a standout game for Southern Virginia recording a career-best 146 receiving yards on 4 catches, while adding 2 touchdowns for the Knights. Beamon's performance was highlighted by a 68-yard touchdown reception from junior quarterback Bruce Eisenhauer (Phoenix, Ariz.) with less than one minute remaining in the third period that brought Southern Virginia within 12 points of the Gyrenes entering the game's final stanza.
The Knights would come no closer, however, as Ave Maria outscored Southern Virginia 14-7 in the fourth quarter securing the program's first win in front of a ruckus home crowd.
Ave Maria jumped out to a 9-0 lead just over ten minutes into the first quarter after a 54-yard touchdown run by Novak—the Knights blocked the Gyrenes' extra-point attempt—followed by a 33-yard made field goal by kicker Troy Bray.
Neither team would score for the next 14-plus minutes until Frank Taitano (Washington, D.C.) gave Southern Virginia its first points of the day on a 30-yard touchdown run, one play after sophomore Robert Robbins (Glendale, Ariz.) intercepted the Gyrenes on their own 30-yard line, making it 9-7 Ave Maria with 1:09 left in the half. Ave Maria's Travis Makauskas returned Southern Virginia's ensuing kickoff 57 yards, however, allowing the Gyrenes to add another touchdown 18 seconds before intermission pushing their lead back up to eight (15-7).
The Knights struck first following halftime with a 20-yard made field goal from Brett Murray (Hollywood, Fla.) bringing Southern Virginia within five points of their hosts early in the third, but Ave Maria responded with two unanswered touchdowns going up 28-10 with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter.
Following Ave Maria's second score in the third period, Taitano broke off 85-yard kickoff return—only the third kickoff return for a touchdown in Southern Virginia football's ten-year history—making it 28-16 Gyrenes at the 5:50 mark. Taitano finished with a career-high 198 all-purpose yards for Southern Virginia to go along with his two scores.
Taitano's timely return could not swing the game's momentum in Southern Virginia's favor, however, as Ave Maria responded with an emphatic 11-play, 85-yard, 5:06 drive culminating in a 15-yard touchdown scramble by Sunderland with 37 seconds left in the third. One play later, Eisenhauer connected with Beamon on a 68-yard touchdown strike that capped a high octane 36-point third quarter.
Beamon also caught Southern Virginia's only score in the fourth—a 14-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Andy Jones (Salt Lake City, Utah), but the Knights were unable to catch the Gyrenes, who outgained their visitors 623-351 in total offense. Southern Virginia also lost the battle on third downs as well, converting 4-for-11 (36%) attempts compared to the Gyrenes' 9-for-18 (50%) third-down conversion rate.
Junior-college transfer Eisenhauer got his first start as a Knight at Ave Maria finishing with 147 passing yards on 7-for-11 with one touchdown. Jones went 5-for-15 during his time under center for 93 yards, including a touchdown and an interception.
The series matchup between Southern Virginia and Ave Maria is now even at 1-1 with both teams winning on their home turf—the Knights defeated the Gyrenes 27-24 in last year's season finale on Nov. 19, 2011.
Next Saturday, Sept. 29, Southern Virginia returns to Robert E. "Bobby" Williams field for its Alumni Game against Virginia University of Lynchburg (0-3) at 1 p.m. EST.