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Bulldogs fall at UT Martin Thursday

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Cayman Russell recovered two fumbles in Thursday's loss. NATHAN MORGAN photo, UTM

MARTIN -- UT Martin scored 21 points in the final three-plus minutes of the first half to take a commanding lead at intermission and the Skyhawks won their home opener 63-7 over Cumberland Thursday night at Hardy Graham Stadium.

Cumberland (1-1) trailed just 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and 14-0 midway through the second period before the Skyhawks scored 21 points over the final 6:23 of the first half to take a 35-0 lead at intermission.

The Bulldogs trailed 14-0 midway through the second quarter when Cayman Russell strip-sacked Dylan Favre and the defensive lineman also recovered the fumble at the UTM 12-yard line.

On first down Reed Gurchiek rushed for 11 yards to the one, but George Nwokoji was knocked back for a yard loss on 1st-and-goal and Gurchiek was hurried on a pass attempt on second down. Gurchiek rushed for no gain on third down and on fourth down, Nwokoji inched toward the end zone and looked like he stuck the ball over the goal line but was ruled down at the one-foot line.

UT Martin took over with 6:23 left in the half and marched 99 yards on 10 plays, including a 27-yard completion from Jarod Neal to Kevin Anderson and 11- and nine-yard passes to Najee Ray. Neal then scrambled right and found Kyle Kerrick in the back of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.

Three plays later Gurchiek threw over the middle to waiting linebacker Tony Bell, who returned the ball 15 yards for the CU15. The Skyhawks caught the Bulldogs in a blitz on first down and Trent Garland scampered 15 yards up the middle for the score.

Cumberland went 3-and-out on the next drive and Mike Self's punt traveled just 25 yards, giving UTM the ball again at the CU43 with 1:52 left in the period.

Favre was sacked on first down by Russell and Rickey Dowdy but completed a 16-yard pass to William Tanner and a 15-yarder to Kyle Kerrick for a first down. Three plays later William Tanner rushed 13 yards for the score, stretching the UTM advantage to 35-0 at the half.

"If we would have been able to punch it in there," said CU coach Donnie Suber, "and I'm saying we would have won the game, but it certainly would have changed the momentum right before halftime.

"The kids played hardm, that's all I can ask of them. But it got a little demoralizing there after a while. We're a fast defensive football team, but they're a different kind of fast."

Cumberland managed 161 total yards of offense, including 86 on the ground. Nwokoji, Broc Loveless and Gurchiek rushed a combined 31 times for 67 yards.

Abou Toure finished with 123 yards rushing on 20 carries and two touchdowns, while the UTM quarterbacks combined to complete 27-of-32 passes for 302 yards and three scores.

Cumberland hosts Belhaven University Saturday, Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. at Nokes-Lasater Field.

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