WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. - Union's bid to bring the Brass Lantern home came up short as host Cumberlands (Ky.) held on for the 35-21 Mid-South Conference West victory Saturday.
This marks the fifth year in a row the Patriots won the Brass Lantern game, extending their series lead to 23-9 overall. The Bulldogs have not had the Brass Lantern, the series' traveling trophy, in its possession since winning 35-34 in 2005.
More importantly, this was Union's first conference game of the season. The loss drops the Bulldogs to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the MSC West. Cumberlands improves to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Union returns home Saturday to host Bethel (Tenn.) in another MSC West battle at 1:30 p.m.
All in all, the stats were fairly even with Cumberlands outgaining Union by only 342-331. The Bulldogs held the ball for 31 minutes and five seconds and won the turnover battle, forcing three Patriot fumbles while coughing the ball up just once.
Yet, Cumberlands did what it had to do in order to get the victory.
Union showed some guts in the third when it faked a field goal and turned it into an 8-yard touchdown pass. The Bulldogs faced fourth and six at the Patriot 8 when Zak Poole (Coconut Creek, Fla.) hit a wide-open P.J. Burrowes (Middlesboro, Ky.) in the left-front corner of the end zone, tying the game at 21-21 with 5:38 left in the third quarter.
Cumberlands started its ensuing possession on its own 42 and methodically marched down the field, using 13 plays to go 58 yards for the go-ahead score. On third-and-goal from the 1, Jay Bright pushed his way into the end zone as the Patriots grabbed a 28-21 advantage with 14:58 remaining in the game.
After limiting Union's next drive to only four plays, Cumberlands engineered another long, clock-eating drive in padding its lead. The Patriots marched 65 yards in 12 plays as Bright capped the drive with another 1-yard plunge to up the margin to 35-21 with 6:32 to play.
The Patriots final two scoring drives consumed 11:24 off the clock.
Union continued to fight, moving the ball down to the Cumberlands 3. However, the drive stalled there as Union had the ball first-and-goal from the 3 but could not punch it in, turning the ball over on downs with 2:25 left.
Cumberland ran out the clock to seal the 14-point victory.
Penalties and failure to convert on third down were the sore spots for Union. The Bulldogs were flagged eight times for 75 yards, while the Patriots committed one infraction for five yards. Neither team did well on third down. In fact, both did better on fourth down. Union went 3-of-13 on third down and 2-of-5 on fourth, while Cumberlands was 4-of-11 on third and 4-for-4 on fourth.
Mike Brinkley (Anthony, Fla.) completed 13-of-27 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. He now has 63 career touchdown passes, three away from Joey Waters' school record. Demetrius Hicks (Frankfort, Ky.) had his best game of the season with four catches for 102 yards and a score.
Armond Smith (Stone Mountain, Ga.) carried the rushing load for Union with Terence Pollock (Orange Park, Fla.) out of action, racking up 81 yards on 15 attempts.
For Cumberlands, Bright did a good job managing the offense as he rushed for 50 yards and three scores on 21 carries and completed 4-of-11 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown down. Terrance Cobb led the Patriot ground game with 90 yards on 13 carries.
The game got off to a rough start for Union as it fumbled away the ball on the opening kickoff, giving Cumberlands possession on the Bulldog 29. Three plays later, Bob Evans scampered 14 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 with 13:56 still to play in the first.
Union took advantage of a Cumberlands turnover at midfield as the Bulldogs needed just one play afterward to get on the board. Brinkley hit Hicks for a 47-yard strike, evening the ledger at 7-7 with 7:48 to go in the first.
After another Patriot turnover, the Bulldogs pieced together a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by a Peanut Manns (Ocala, Fla.) 1-yard run. After the PAT, Union led 14-7 with 1:07 remaining in the first.
Cumberlands cut the margin to 14-13 when Bright hit Evans for a 14-yard scoring pass. The PAT was blocked, keeping Union up by one with 13:19 left in the half.
It remained a one-point game until the 9:56 mark in the third when Bright scored on a 4-yard run. Bright also caught a pass from Evans for the two-point conversion to up the Patriots lead to 21-14.