ROME, Ga. - James McClain ran back the second half kickoff 92 yards and 25th-ranked Cumberland's defense held 22nd-ranked Shorter to just 174 yards rushing, including 13 in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs won their conference opener, 21-17, at Barron Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 8.
Cumberland (4-1, 1-0 Mid-South West) trailed 10-7 at halftime but scored 14 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter, enough to hold off the homestanding Hawks (3-2, 1-1). McClain ran back the opening kickoff 92 yards and then Ben Miller forced a fumble on Shorter's first offensive play, with Devin Guthrie falling on the loose ball. Six plays later Adrian Baker crashed in from the two yard line for a 21-10 CU lead.
But Shorter answered on its next drive, going 50 yards on six plays before quarterback Cory Thacker rushed in for his second one-yard TD of the game. That was all for both offenses, with Cumberland gaining just 78 yards on four possessions and the Hawks with 60 yards on four possessions.
The Cumberland defense forced two three-and-outs and an 11-play, 47-yard drive by the Bulldogs at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth period changed field position, with CU starting at its own eight yard line but backing up the Hawks to their 13 after a Tyler Emmetts punt.
Emmetts' final punt of the day pushed Shorter back to its 12-yard line and Allant McLemore knocked down Thacker's fourth down pass with 1:25 remaining, sealing the victory for CU.
Tim McCord led the Bulldogs with 13 rushes for 51 yards as well as one big third down reception for 13 yards that set up Baker's touchdown. Reed Gurchiek returned to the lineup and finished 16-for-24 for 118 yards.
C.J. Scott ran for 108 yards for Shorter, 44 on one carry to set up SU's first touchdown, but the Hawks averaged only 4.0 yards per rush in the game and finished 69 yards below their season average on the ground.
Cumberland held the Hawks to minus four yards on its first two drives of the game and took advantage of good field position to score the first points of the contest.
The Bulldogs went 43 yards on eight plays before Lemeco Miller cut back on a sweep to the right and broke through a tackle near the goalline for a nine-yard scoring run. Beau Baker's extra point was good, giving CU a 7-0 advantage with 3:59 to play in the first quarter.
Shorter made adjustments on offense and answered with a nine-play, 45-yard scoring drive after a 41-yard kickoff return by Jonny Sitton. Scott did the bulk of the work, carrying five times for 22 yards and the home team took advantage of a facemask penalty. Thacker dived over the top for a one-yard run, tying the contest at seven.
Shorter had the wind in the second quarter and got good field position at the CU 45. Scott broke off a 44-yard scamper but the Bulldogs stopped SU on two chances from the one, with a fumble on second down. An offensive lineman was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushing the Hawks back and forcing a 30-yard field goal from Troy Postell, which he punched through for a 10-7 Shorter advantage.
McClain gave the Bulldogs a quick lead in the third quarter, running back the opening kickoff 92 yards for the score. Guthrie recovered a fumble on Shorter's first play and Cumberland punched that in the end zone as well, with McCord converting a 3rd-and-6 with a 13-yard catch and run. Baker rumbled the last two yards for a 21-10 CU lead with 11:10 left in the third.
But the Hawks came right back on their next drive, moving 50 yards in six plays. Thacker hit Antwon Appleton for a 35-yard completion to the one and Thacker picked up his second rushing TD of the game, cutting the deficit to 21-17.
Cumberland hosts Faulkner University Saturday, Oct. 15at 1:30 p.m. for Homecoming and Hall of Fame weekend at Lindsey Donnell Stadium / Kirk Field.