From Post staff reports
Cumberland dropped six spots to No. 20 in the NAIA Football Coaches' Top 25 Poll, the national office announced earlier this week, after the Bulldogs dropped a 34-21 decision over the weekend at Belhaven University.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for CU and dropped Cumberland into a first-place tie with Bethel University atop the standings in the Mid-South Conference West Division.
The Bulldogs own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Wildcats via a 36-34 victory over BU on Oct. 22. Cumberland still has a chance to qualify for the NAIA Football Championship Series but must defeat the University of the Cumberlands this Saturday at home in order to at least tie for the regular season conference title.
Kickoff is set for 12 Noon at Lindsey Donnell Stadium.
Belhaven 34,, Cumberland 21
JACKSON, MS -- Apparently, theres no place quite like home for the Belhaven Blazers.
QB Alex Williams threw two touchdown passes and Belhaven scored 34 unanswered points to upset then -14th ranked Cumberland 34-21 Saturday at H.T. Newell Field.
The Blazers (5-5, 3-3 Mid-South Conference) improved to 5-0 at home with the win -- just seven days after taking a 58-0 pasting on the road at University of the Cumberlands.
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Bulldogs and put CU into a first-place tie with Bethel University.
Cumberland committed three turnovers in the contest, all fumbles, and the Blazers turned those miscues into 10 points.
Number one, we played a solid and talented football team, said CU head coach Dewayne Alexander. We turned the football over three times, committed 10 penalties for 115 yards and just couldnt get them off the field on some key third downs.
Belhaven won despite spotting Cumberland (7-2, 4-1) an early 7-0 lead on JJ McClains 65-yard touchdown bomb on a pass from Reed Gurchiek.
After a 35-yard field goal by James Bryan, Belhaven took the lead for good, 10-7, on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Kylan Pollard.
The lead stretched to 34-7 before Cumberland struck for two scores in the final five minutes, but it was too little too late to stop the upset.
Senior corner Chris Simpson intercepted a pass and ran it back 22 yards for a touchdown and QB Broc Loveless hit Dillon Kirkham with a 14-yard touchdown pass in the final minute after DB Josh Walker picked off another Belhaven pass.
Blazer tailback Justin Gaines finished the contest with 153 yards on 24 carries and one score, while two Belhaven quarterbacks combined to complete 15-of-26 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
Junior wingback Lemeco Miller returned to the lineup to carry nine times for 77 yards while fullback Adrian Tank Baker rushed eight times for a career-high 60 yards. Baker also had a 40-yard kickoff return in the second half.
Cumberland quarterbacks Reed Gurchiek and Loveless were 10-of-21 for 132 yards and two scores, though the Bulldogs dropped several passes and just missed hitting on a pair of deep balls to McClain and Quan Johnson.
I told our team point blank after the game, youll either react to this or respond, Alexander said. If we react, well start pointing fingers, blaming each other and second guessing. If we do that we wont win on Saturday.
Knowing these young men like I do, I would be very surprised if we dont respond with a solid week of practice and preparation for Saturday. I can assure you that we as a staff are going to roll our sleeves up and go to work to get this fixed.
The one positive out of all this -- we still control what happens to us. If we win at home on Saturday, weve got the opportunity to still be the conference co-champions and still have a shot at a playoff spot.
Stat line -- Behlaven rolled up 24 first downs while CU had 18. The Blazers finished with 415 yards in total offense while Cumberland had 366. LB Ben Miller led Cumberland with 11 tackles.
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