By Daniel Whitehead
ROCKY MOUNT, N.C.—Trailing after three quarters, the Southern Virginia University football team clawed its way back in the fourth quarter to grab an eventual 24-21 overtime victory over host N.C. Wesleyan Saturday afternoon at RMT Athletic Stadium in Rocky Mount, N.C.
Tied at 14-14 late in the fourth quarter, the Battling Bishops lined up for a 35-yard field goal to take the lead, but Southern Virginia freshman Grant Darrington snuck around the corner to block it and teammate Justin Gonzales scooped it up for a 75-yard touchdown return to put the Knights up, 21-14, with 4:49 remaining in the game.
Gonzales, a Peoria, Ariz., native, returned a blocked field goal 66 yards for a touchdown in last week's game against Methodist, marking the first time in program history a player has returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in consecutive games.
"Darrington made a great play to get around the edge and block it," said Southern Virginia head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "He still has the lace prints of the football on his arm. Gonzales always seems to be in the right place at the right time in those situations and knows what to do with the ball after he scoops it up. It was a great effort from both of them to put us in a position to win."
N.C. Wesleyan would tie the game at 21-21 with just eight seconds remaining in regulation after an 11-yard touchdown pass to Marckenson Voltaire in a 96-yard drive that took two minutes to complete.
"There were definitely some mixed feelings about the fourth quarter," Fitzgerald said. "We played great defense for three quarters but fell apart in the fourth. We'll definitely review their final drive against us and make corrections so those mistakes don't happen again."
The Battling Bishops started overtime with the ball and advanced to the Knights' 16-yard line before Southern Virginia defensive lineman Keaton Epps forced and recovered a fumble to give possession to the Knights. After a few short runs, freshman kicker Davis Cragun converted a 27-yard field goal down the middle to lift the Knights to the 24-21 victory.
"It was a great win for our program and the university," said Southern Virginia head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "I'm proud of the way our team played with spirit and resilience. We were down after three quarters, fought to tie it up in the fourth and put it away in overtime. We just kept getting after it and it was an all-around team effort to get the victory."
N.C. Wesleyan jumped to an early 7-0 lead at the 12:10 mark of the first quarter before both teams went scoreless for nearly three quarters.
Southern Virginia quarterback Andy Jones earned a one-yard touchdown run at the 13:49 mark of the fourth quarter to cap an 11-play, 68-yard drive that took up just 3:34 of the clock.
Following an NC Wesleyan touchdown, Southern Virginia sophomore running back Nate Caldwell earned a 39-yard touchdown rumble to tie the game at 14-14 with 10:15 remaining in the game.
An evenly played game, Southern Virginia had 16 first downs to the Battling Bishops' 14, while Southern Virginia had 295 yards of total offense to NCWC's 347. Linebacker Dakoda Winsor led the Knights with 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assisted), while Robert Robbins tallied eight tackles on the day. Freshman Nathan Barrett also had a 23-yard interception return early in the game.
The Knights compete next Saturday, Sept. 21 at VU-Lynchburg in Lynchburg, Va. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at City Stadium.