No. 2 Cumberlands halted No. 19 Reinhardt on fourth down with just seconds remaining in the game and held on for the 28-24 victory in the cross-divisional Mid-South Conference game.
After a pair of pass plays were broken up, followed by a short run, Reinhardt (5-3) was faced with fourth-and-8 from the 21. Quarterback Ryan Thompson scrambled toward the sideline, but he couldn’t find a receiver. He decided to go for the first down himself and dove ahead, only to come up a couple yards short of the first down.
Cumberlands (7-0) then began celebrating the victory that had once looked uncertain as it took over on downs.
Reinhardt coach Danny Cronic said there was a different mood surrounding the Eagles, who saw their five-game winning streak snapped.
“Going into the game, we were the underdog kind of scratching along, but then, at one point, it looked like we were the top dog,” Cronic said. “All the stars had to align for us to win. We got several stars lined up. We just didn’t get them all.”
On the Eagles’ final drive, which ultimately came up short, they had a few miscues which cost them. A ball intended for an open receiver was tipped by the tight end, who thought the pass was intended for him, and it fell incomplete.
Cronic said he couldn’t have been more pleased with the effort of his team. The Eagles held the advantage in several categories, including total offensive yards, first downs and forced turnovers.
“They played a No. 2 team in the country and took them to the last second, but I’m still disappointed that we didn’t win the game,” Cronic said.
In the fourth quarter, Cumberlands used a long punt return to set up a touchdown, and it also benefitted from a pair of penalties against the Eagles. With 10:16 left in the game, Cumberlands quarterback Adam Craig scored from a yard out to cap a 13-play 67-yard drive.
The Patriots quickly forced Reinhardt to punt the ball away and began a drive of their own. Moving the ball 68 yards on just nine plays, D’Angelo Jordan plunged into the end zone on an 8-yard run, which cut Reinhardt’s led to 24-21 with 5:43 remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, Reinhardt was flagged for a penalty and took possession of the ball on its own 11. The offense was unable to pick up a first down and punted the ball away. Iquan Deed received the punt for the Patriots and returned it 45 yards to the Reinhardt 5.
Two plays later, Jordan was back in the end zone with a 2-yard touchdown run, which gave Cumberlands its first lead since the first quarter, 28-24.
In the fourth quarter, Cumberlands beat Reinhardt in each area of the game. The Patriots had a 6-1 edge in first downs and 3-0 on third-down conversions, outrushed the Eagles 100-2 and committed five penalties to the Eagles’ 10.
After a scoreless first quarter, which saw Reinhardt fumble away a promising drive, Cumberlands took a 7-0 lead on a short pass from Craig to Jordan, who ran for the bulk of the 78-yard touchdown with 10:26 left in the first half.
Reinhardt immediately responded, with a 33-yard field goal by Matthew Moon to cut the gap to 7-3.
The Eagles had a chance to take the lead on their next possession, but instead fumbled the ball away on the Patriots’ 6. However, they quickly got the ball back as Travis Nunley intercepted a pass on the 45-yard line. Less than a minute later, Reinhardt took the lead on a 9-yard run by Niagel Curtis.
Neither team scored in the second half until Reinhardt’s Jaylen Dodd broke away for an 8-yard touchdown with 1:43 left in the quarter, which made the score 17-7.
On the first pass of Cumberlands’ next possession, Craig was intercepted by Nick Johnson, who returned the ball 25 yards to the Patriots’ 5. A penalty moved the Eagles closer to the end zone before T.C. Carter punched the ball in from 3 yards out.
Thompson, who was the first Reinhardt quarterback to play a complete game, finished 20-for-32 for 262 yards. Niagel Curtis led the rushing attack with 12 carries for 49 yards, while Aaron Kennedy was the Eagles’ leader receiver with seven catches for 108 yards.
A.J Thomas led the defense with 10½ tackles and recovered a fumble. The Eagles forced four turnovers, including two interceptions and three forced fumbles, one of which was recovered by punter Blayton Bethune.
Reinhardt will have next Saturday off before returning to action Nov. 9 to host Cumberland University in a Mid-South West game.