By Daniel Whitehead
LYNCHBURG, Va.—Powered behind junior Jerry Washington's 173 yards on the ground, the Southern Virginia University football team defeated host VU-Lynchburg, 33-30, Saturday afternoon at City Stadium in Lynchburg, Va.
Ahead 30-26 with just a few minutes remaining in the game, the Dragons (0-3) appeared poised to score another touchdown following a botched Southern Virginia (2-1) punt that put VU-Lynchburg at the Knights' 21-yard line. However, Southern Virginia's Keaton Epps forced a VUL fumble that teammate Sam Mellor recovered at the 22-yard line to give possession back to Southern Virginia with just 2:14 left.
Southern Virginia sophomore quarterback Andy Jones, who rushed 13 times for 31 yards and four touchdowns for the day, led the Knights down the field in 14 plays to earn the go-ahead score with just 32 seconds remaining to earn the victory. On a fourth- and-1 early in the drive, Jones picked up a four-yard run to keep the team alive. Two plays later, he connected with junior Michael Goering for a 16-yard gain to the 50-yard line.
Jones advanced Southern Virginia to VUL's 25-yard line on a 13-yard run before Washington would gain a rush for 10 yards to the 14-yard line. On a first-and-10 at the 14-yard line, Jones got around the corner for a 12-yard pickup to the two before pushing it in for a two-yard winning score on the next play.
"Our team played with heart and character and I'm very proud of the way we fought and wanted this win," said Southern Virginia head coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "You could tell our team remembered last year's loss and didn't want a repeat result. Despite getting down a few times during the game, I'm happy that we never lost focus and just kept battling. Our maturity has really developed over the past few weeks and I'm excited to play the rest of the season with this team."
The Dragons jumped to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter following respective 22- and 63-yard pass plays to wide receiver Devon Stewart. After Jones' first one-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first quarter, VUL struck again moments into the second quarter on a seven-yard strike. The Dragons would go on to earn 325 yards passing in the game.
After Jones scored on another one-yard run minutes later, he threw an interception that was returned 67 yards by a Dragon defender for a touchdown. Southern Virginia kicker Davis Cragun played a crucial role in the game, converting a 21-yard field goal as the first half expired to cut VUL's lead to 24-16 at the break. Cragun would add a 26-yarder early in the third quarter and was successful on three extra-point attempts. He also put several kickoffs into the back of the endzone for touchbacks.
Southern Virginia finished with 24 first downs to the VUL's 20 and rushed for a combined 250 yards to the Dragons' 105. The Knights' 57 carries ranks fourth-most in program history and its 250 net rushing yards arrives at No. 6 for most in a single game.
Defensively, junior Colter Evans led the team with 12 tackles (8 solo, 4 assisted), while Dakoda Winsor and Jacob Palmer each registered seven. Last week's USCAA Special Teams Player of the Week, Justin Gonzales, forced a fumble that teammate Matthew Gregory picked up at the Southern Virginia three-yard line to prevent a VUL score. Robert Crews also had a fumble recovery. The Knight defense was also responsible for eight tackles-for-loss and four pass breakups.
The Knights complete a three-game road swing next Saturday, Sept. 28, with a tilt at The College of New Jersey. Game time is scheduled for a noon start in Ewing Township, N.J.