RED ZONE FAILURES KILL CU
LEBANON -- Futility in the red zone spelled doom for Cumberland as Belhaven escaped with a 7-6 overtime victory over the Bulldogs Saturday, Oct. 24 at Lindsey Donnell Stadium.
The loss dropped CU to 3-5 overall / 1-2 in the Mid-South Conference and mathematically eliminated the Bulldogs from contention for the Western Division championship.
Cumberland committed three turnovers inside the red zone and also missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter.
"When we got inside the 20, we just weren’t able to stick one in there," said CU Coach Dewayne Alexander after the game. "When you get down there and keep coming up empty -- that’s disappointing. You can’t have penalties and turnovers in the red zone like we did today."
The Bulldogs had not committed a turnover all season inside the red zone but had two interceptions and one fumble inside the 20-yard line Saturday.
CU played without an experienced kicker after Nick Sasser left school on Wednesday before the game and kickoff specialist Yue Wang was out of town with the soccer team.
"Our kicker had some personal issues and went home Wednesday," Alexander said. "We were trying out kickers Thursday. I didn’t want to put (defensive tackle) Josh Smith in a situation where the game would come down to him making a kick."
Smith, who last kicked in high school at Tennessee Temple, kicked off to start the game and then missed a 27-yard field goal with 6:25 remaining.
The Bulldog defense held Belhaven to 107 yards of total offense until the Blazers drove 64 yards after the missed field goal, but BC’s Justin Miller missed a 33-yarder wide right with 1:01 left to send the contest to overtime.
Alexander decided before the game to go for two if the Bulldogs scored first, and he did just that in overtime.
CU had the ball first and scored on five plays, with Mitch McChurch running in from seven yards out.
QB Christian Burnett, subbing for starter Curt Bureau after an injury to the junior in the first quarter, rolled to his right, but the pass to Kenny Sallis was tipped at the line, and the Bulldogs missed the two-point conversion.
Belhaven scored on an 11-yard swing pass to Ricardo Bolton, catching the Bulldogs in a blitz. Miller booted the extra point through for the victory.
The loss put a damper on a big day rushing for redshirt freshman Ken Dixon, who carried 17 times for 115 yards.
The Thomasville, Ga., native had just 96 yards rushing for the season heading into the contest.
The Bulldogs dominated the first half statistically, compiling 164 yards of total offense compared to just 63 yards for the Blazers.
But two costly turnovers in Belhaven territory ended a pair of CU drives.
Cumberland put together a 14-play drive on its first possession of the game, moving 71 yards in more than six minutes before Bureau threw an interception to Belhaven’s Tramaine Brock.
It was the first interception of Bureau’s career covering 138 attempts.
On the first play of the second quarter, tight end Mitch Reynolds caught a pass but fumbled at the Blazers 29-yard line.
The Bulldog defense limited Belhaven to 63 yards in the half, including only 11 on the ground, with a pair of sacks by Ben Miller.
Belhaven was also 0-for-5 on third down in the first half and the Bulldogs held onto the ball for more than 19 minutes.
Cumberland plays Oct. 31 at Shorter College in Rome, Ga., at 12:30 p.m. CT.
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