MC holds off Methodist, moves into second in USAC
By Kelly Franklin | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — With all but nine of the 54 total points coming off turnovers, Maryville put together one long drive to go ahead and a pick-six touchdown to seal their 28-24 USA South win at Methodist Saturday and jump into a tie for second place in the USAC standings.
The Fighting Scots (3-3, 2-1) fought from behind virtually the entire contest after fumbling away the opening kickoff leading to a quick 6-0 Monarch lead, but a stout defensive effort and enough offensive bursts at key moments led to the victory.
“Methodist really made a commitment to shut down our running game,” MC head coach Mike Rader said, “So we had to change to throw first and run later, and it’s very pleasing to see this young team make the adjustments and keep fighting to the end and get the win.”
Methodist (2-4, 1-2) was threatening to increase its 18-13 halftime lead with a drive to the MC 4-yard line late in the third, but a bad center snap was fumbled and recovered by defense end Joshua Crebs at the 14.
From that point, freshman quarterback Evan Pittenger directed the Scots on their best and longest drive of the day. After the short passing game featuring a leaping grab by Jared Miller for a crucial third-down conversion moved the ball near midfield, wide-out Ed Johnson got behind the Monarch secondary and hauled in Pittenger’s pass then cut back across field and raced in for a 59-yard TD and a 21-18 Maryville lead with just three seconds remaining before the final stanza.
“We knew they were jumping the hitch, so we just ran Eddie long, and Pitt did a good job of putting it out there, and Eddie did the rest,” said Rader.
The Fighting Scots defense then throttled the Monarch offense to preserve the margin, with good help from punter Chasen Williams. Methodist pinned the Scots inside their 10-yard line on one possession, but Williams’ rugby-style kick got, as it had all day, a great roll to push the Monarchs out to the 50-yard line for their next possession, which ended up with a missed 25-yard field-goal attempt.
Maryville then nearly put the game away with a sustained drive running the clock down and forcing Methodist to use most of its time-outs, picking up three first downs through the passing game. After an arguable offensive interference call negated another long completion, the Scots punted, and another great roll for Williams meant the Monarchs had to start at their own 6 with little time left.
Two sacks and a short scramble by Monarch quarterback Max Reber led to a fourth-down, do-or-die play for Methodist, and MC’s Ruben Rogers made it a fatality.
The junior cornerback zipped in front of the receiver on an out-pattern, snared the pass and raced untouched down the MC sideline to give the Scots’ defense the honor of sealing the win.
“I saw the quarterback’s eyes were on that receiver the whole time,” Rogers said, “I just broke on it when it left his arm. Once I had it, I just knew I had to get the touchdown.”
After Rogers’ pick-six, Methodist pushed in one quick score on two long completions, but any suspense was short-lived when Miller once again used his sure hands to quickly latch onto the onside attempt, allowing the MC offense to finish the day with two snaps from victory formation.
Pittenger finished with 19 completions in his 31 tosses. His 204 passing yards nearly rivaled Methodist’s Reber, who aired it all game, finishing with 22 completions on 44 attempts, his lone interception being Rogers’ game-sealer. The freshman Scot QB also scored on a nice 20-yard option keeper in the second quarter to give the Scots a brief 13-9 lead.
The opening MC score came on a 27-yard TD reception by Blake Williams, who later suffered an ankle injury which led to Johnson’s extra playing time and touchdown reception.
Maryville hosts LaGrange at Homecoming next Saturday at 1:00 p.m.