ROME, Ga. - Union raced to a
20-point first half lead, but had to hold off a hard-charging Shorter
(Ga.) Hawks squad as the Bulldogs registered a 37-31 Mid-South
Conference West victory Saturday.
Union (6-4 overall, 3-2 MSC West) took advantage of a fumble, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and returned a blocked field goal for another score en route to a 27-7 first-quarter cushion.
Shorter rallied in the second half, cutting the margin to 30-28. However, Mike Brinkley (Anthony, Fla.) completed a 11-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Hicks with 10:48 left in the fourth for a nine-point buffer as the Bulldogs escaped with the 37-31 win.
Although he only threw for 174 yards on 11-of-21 passing, Brinkley connected for three touchdowns - marking the 15th time in his career he has thrown for three or more touchdowns in a game.
With the victory, Union guaranteed itself a winning record for the second time in three years.
Shorter took the opening kick, but on the second play from scrimmage, Darrin Greene (Cherrylog, Ga.) recovered a Ben Williams fumble to give Union the ball on the Hawk 40. Four plays later, Brinkley hit Sean Mackey (Reddick, Fla.) for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put Union up 7-0 with 13:18 left in the first.
The Hawks evened the score at 7-7 on their next drive as Williams hooked up with T.C. Jay for a 33-yard scoring pass. But the score was tied for only a mere 13 seconds as Armond Smith (Stone Mountain, Ga.) returned the kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown, putting the Bulldogs up 14-7 with 10:38 remaining in the opening quarter.
Shorter appeared to be on its way to crack the scoring column once again on its next possession. The Hawks lined up for a 25-yard field, but Brad Fulton (Maryville, Tenn.) blocked Troy Postell's attempt. Terry Young (Orange Park, Fla.) scooped up the ball and returned it 85 yards for another Bulldog touchdown, making it 21-7 with 5:19 still to go in the first.
After forcing Shorter to go three-and-out on its next possession, Union marched 84 yards in eight plays to extend its lead to 27-7. Brinkley hit P.J. Burrowes for a 27-yard scoring strike with 10 seconds to go in the opening quarter. The PAT was no good, leaving it a 20-point margin.
Unlike the first quarter, the second was quiet on the scoring front. However, that all changed as the third period began.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the second half with both resulting in Hawk touchdowns. Williams scored on runs of 2 and 42 yards as Shorter cut the deficit to 27-21 with 11:33 to go in the third.
Chad Boyington (Stockbridge, Ga.) pushed the Bulldogs' lead to 30-21 with a 21-yard field goal with 4:43 left in the third. But Antwon Appleton tacked on an 8-yard scoring run for Shorter to make it a 30-28 contest as the game moved to the fourth.
With 10:48 to play, Brinkley and Burrowes hooked up for an 11-yard touchdown pass to up the score to 37-28.
Postell made it a one-score game when he booted a 27-yard field goal with 5:29 remaining, pulling the Hawks within 37-31.
Union tried to run the clock out but was forced to punt as Shorter took over on its own 19 with 1:46 to play. The Hawks needed only five plays to move the ball to the Union 39. However, four straight incompletions ended the Shorter threat as it turned the ball over on downs with 15 seconds to go.
The Bulldogs outgained the Hawks 387-379. Union nearly had two 100-yard rushers as Rob Brown (Daytona, Fla.) rushed for 102 yards on 17 carries and Smith had 96 yards on 17 carries. Mackey hauled in five passes for 40 yards and score, while Burrowes had three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Burrowes is two receptions away from becoming the sixth player in program history to record 100 in a career.
Williams paced Shorter's offense with 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 11 carries while passing for 59 yards and a score.
The Bulldogs will close out the regular season at home Saturday when it plays host to Faulkner (Ala.). Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.