LaGrange wears down MC defense
By Kelly Franklin | (email@example.com)
A valiant defensive effort was lost in frustration as the Maryville College offense ran in reverse for most of the second half in a 17-13 loss to LaGrange Saturday afternoon.
Turnovers, which had kept the Scots in the lead for most of the first three quarters, eventually swung to favor the Panthers. Maryville (3-4, 2-2 USA South) fumbled twice and gave up two safeties after taking an early third quarter lead of 13-6, allowing the visitors to put up the final 11 points.
“We can’t do much more as a defense,” linebacker Gabe Johnson said. “We created turnovers and we made stops, but the offense just couldn’t produce.”
LaGrange (3-4, 3-1) dominated the statistics, producing 354 total offensive yards to just 117 for Maryville. Most of those yards came by simply wearing down the outsized Maryville defense, especially down the final stretches of the second half when the tandem of quarterback Ed Russ, the USA South’s leading rusher, and bruising back Kent Gibson did most of their damage, combining for a total of 225 yards on 50 carries.
The Panthers moved the ball consistently throughout, but the Scots defense stiffened on several occasions, with three interceptions and two fourth-down stops deep in the red zone keeping LaGrange off the scoreboard.
When Russ fumbled and was knocked out of the game temporarily on LaGrange’s first possession of the second half — and when Travis Felder scooted 37 yards on the next play to give MC a 13-6 lead — the crowd of over 5,000 had visions of a Scots victory to add to the other homecoming highlights.
That 37-yard touchdown turned out to be the only first down the Scots could manage the second half. Maryville’s drives after Felder’s TD produced two safeties, two fumbles, two three-and-outs and their final four-play desperation chance as time expired.
The first safety came after a Panther punt rolled dead at the MC 5-yard line and on third down Evan Pittenger was sacked. On the next Scots possession, Pittenger fumbled, leading to a short 34-yard LaGrange touchdown drive and its first lead since their first possession of the game, 15-13.
LaGrange controlled the ball for nearly 42 minutes of the game, and the short-handed Maryville defense flying to the ball early on was simply worn down too far by the final minutes.
“The guys had played a ton. I go back to the depth that we have. Those guys are giving it everything they got and offensively we weren’t giving them much time to catch their breath,” MC coach Mike Rader said.
Maryville led from midway through the first quarter until the offense’s collapse. After LaGrange kicked an early field goal, the Scots took a 7-3 lead into the second quarter when a high snap sailed over the punter’s head, travelled an extra 18 yards into the end zone and Mario Perone recovered for the score.
Maryville travels to Danville, Virginia next Saturday to face Averett in another USA South contest.