BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Christening its new synthetic turf field, Union College covered the field numerous times Saturday. However, it was visiting Lambuth (Tenn.) University that left happy as it outlasted Union 48-44.
A common belief is that play is faster on synthetic turf rather than grass. And it sure appeared to be the case at Burch/Nau Field as Union and Lambuth combined for 800 yards in total offense as well as 440 kickoff return yardage.
The Eagles (1-1 overall) racked up 451 yards in total offense with 244 coming on the ground and 207 through the air. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs (0-2 overall) compiled 349 yards in total offense with 335 coming through the air and just 14 rushing.
Senior quarterback Joey Waters (McDonough, Ga.) had a field day as he completed 26-of-35 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he had no interceptions. During the game, he became just the third player in program history to pass for 5,000 yards in a career as he now has 5,248. Waters needs just 277 more passing yards to pass Stanley Niece for second all-time and 1,268 to surpass Lee Worley for the top spot.
Shawn Kelly (Owenton, Ky.) had a big day as he hauled in seven passes for 139 yards and two scores. Kyle Callahan (Covington, Ky.) pulled down a team-high eight catches for 79 yards, while Rolondo Dyer (Lawrenceburg, Ga.) had three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Terence Pollock (Orange Park, Fla.) led the Bulldog ground attack with 43 yards on 20 carries as he also caught three passes for 27 yards and a score.
Both teams came out firing on all cylinders. The two squads combined for 28 first-quarter points and Lambuth held a 34-30 edge at the half.
The Bulldogs took the opening possession of the second half and drove the ball 57 yards on eight plays to take the lead. Waters capped the drive with a nine-yard bootleg run, making it 37-34 with 11:30 to play in the third.
With 7:45 to go in the third, Kevin Haynes scored his third touchdown of the game on a three-yard run, capping a nine-play, 65-yard march by the Eagles. Following Chris McGinn's PAT, Lambuth led 41-37.
Union reclaimed the lead just before time expired in the third. With three seconds remaining, Waters hooked up with Pollock on a screen play that covered 15 yards for the score, giving Union a 44-41 lead.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Allen Ervin returned the ball 50 yards to the Union 38 to give the Eagles a short field to work with. Eight plays later, Mark Kelley hit Clint Anderson in the back of the end zone for a four-yard scoring strike as Lambuth claimed a 48-44 lead with 10:53 to play.
From that point on, Union struggled to generate any kind of offense as the Lambuth defense cranked it up a notch. In its final four possessions of the game, the Bulldogs managed to amass just 18 yards in total offense. Union had minus-11 yards of total offense in its last two possessions.
Lambuth was able to ice the clock with a nine-play, 79-yard drive in the waning minutes. But the Eagles turned the ball over on downs at the Union 11 with one second remaining. The Bulldogs attempted to dial up one more big play, but Waters ended up being sacked for a one-yard loss by Stephen Moten to end the game.
Offensively for Lambuth, Kelley, the team's third-string quarterback, did an impressive job filling in for the injured Josh Garza as he completed 12-of-18 passes for 207 yards and two scores. Shane Smith was his favorite target as he caught four passes for 52 yards.
Haynes led the Eagle ground attack with 139 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.
Meanwhile, Ervin did it all for Lambuth as he rushed for 96 yards and a score on 12 carries, caught two passes for 19 yards and returned six kickoffs for 189 yards with a long of 59 yards.
Union had its own special teams star in sophomore Antonio Dishman (Louisville, Ky.), who returned four kicks for 146 yards, including an 85-yard return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Defensively, senior linebacker Patrick O'Neal (Lula, Ga.) led the with with 15 tackles, giving him 35 on the season. O'Neal also had a tackle for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Marekus Smith (Lithonia, Ga.) had 13 stops with a sack and a forced fumble. Ty Harris (Monroe, Ga.) chipped in eight tackles, one for a loss of two yards and two pass deflections.
Union's next three games are all on the road as it will travel to Malone (Ohio) College next weekend for a 7 p.m. showdown in Canton, Ohio.