BUENA VISTA, Va. — The Southern Virginia University football team's strong offensive start and its consistent defensive play in the second half led to their third win of the 2019 season, defeating Guilford College 30-17 Saturday afternoon at Knight Stadium.
The Knights (3-5) led 23-17 late in the fourth quarter when the Quakers (2-6) threatened to score on fourth-and-goal and the ball on the SVU 7-yard line. Senior Neil Davis delivered the play of the game as he intercepted the Quakers' Teddy Gassert in the endzone and after shedding several tackles, returned the interception for the score, sealing the game for Southern Virginia with the 30-17 victory.
"Today's win goes to the effort of our defense," said head coach Ed Mulitalo. "We have players that have grown with the program and contributed in a big way today."
Davis Pinkston threw for 198 yards (16-28) and two touchdowns. Seniors Josh Newman led the receivers with five catches for 86 yards and a pair of scores while Kevin Adams also produced five receptions totaling 75 yards. Akiva Wedge led the team's ground attack with 44 yards on 16 carries. After today, Wedge has now rushed for over 2,000 yards in his career and sits as the program's Division III leader in career rushing yards.
The Southern Virginia's defense produced four turnovers and a season-high seven sacks. The defensive line controlled a majority of the game, accounting for 26 tackles, five sacks, three pass breakups, and a fumble recovery. Davis shined for the Knights collecting ten tackles, two interceptions, one tackle for loss, one touchdown, and two crucial fourth-down stops. Albert Green led the team with 11 tackles while Simi Moala recorded a career-high three sacks. Tamal Campbell added a career-high five pass breakups in the win.
"Neil's performance was crucial in our success, and he helped us as a team stay together," said Mulitalo. "Our defense produced turnovers throughout today's game. I believe it is vital for us as a team to win the turnover battle, and today we were successful."
The Knights claimed an early 3-0 lead with 5:52 remaining in the first quarter on a 24-yard Jackson Hatch field goal. Two minutes later, Pinkston connected with Newman for a 42-yard score completing a three-play, 74-yard drive to extend the Knights' lead 10-0 (following a successful Hatch PAT) in the first.
After a stop by the Southern Virginia defense, the Knights offense continued with its growing momentum as Pinkston found the endzone on a 23-yard rush up the middle for a 16-0 advantage (following a failed two-point conversion).
The Knights forced its first turnover of the game early in the second quarter when Joel Bergman picked off Gassert on the GC 35-yard line for his second interception of the season.
Following a Coby Akana 25-yard run, Pinkston hit Newman two plays later for his 14th passing touchdown of the season, this time for 8-yards, increasing the Knights' lead to 23-0.
After a Southern Virginia turnover, the Quakers ended the half with a successful 35-yard field goal from Harrison Kiser to make the score 23-3 at the half.
On the Quakers first possession of the second half, Davis intercepted Gassert in the endzone for his first interception of the game and his second of the season, stopping the Guilford drive.
The Knights' next drive came up empty after a missed field goal, giving the ball back to the Quakers. The Southern Virginia defense once again managed to cause a turnover as Bergman and Justin Mitchell found the quarterback in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was scooped up by Skyler Cloward on the SVU 46 yard-line. The offense then responded with a fumble, giving the ball right back to Guilford at midfield.
Guilford made the most of the Southern Virginia mishap scoring their first touchdown of the game on a 16-yard pass from Gassert to Tre Alexander to finish the seven-play, 49-yard drive, trimming the Knights lead to 23-10. The Quakers continued their comeback in the fourth quarter as they used a nine-play, 55-yard drive that was capped off on a Shanaan McKoy one-yard rush to make it a one-possession game.
After two failed Southern Virginia drives, the Quakers now with a newfound rhythm worked their way down the field deep into Knight territory, but was cut short on Davis's 100+ yard interception, for the win. The interception becomes the longest touchdown scored in the program's Division III history and is the team's first defensive touchdown since the 2016 season.
"I am excited we were able to come in today and pick up a win, but I know that this season is more than one game," said Mulitalo. "We won today, and that is an excellent step for the team and the program. I look for us to get back and improve as coaches and help our players prepare for Washington and Lee."
The Knights will now travel seven miles for a crosstown clash against Washington and Lee University on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 1 p.m.