BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback, but the deficit turned out to be too big to overcome as visiting No. 15 Cumberland (Tenn.) held on for the 43-35 Mid-South Conference West victory Saturday.
After a 78-yard touchdown pass to James McClain, Cumberland own a 37-7 cushion with 1:44 to go in the first half. Union whittled the margin down to eight and was driving late. However, Union turned the ball over on downs with 3:36 to play at the Cumberland 33.
Cumberland picked up a pair of first downs and ran out the clock, sealing the 43-35 decision.
The loss drops Union to 2-7 overall and 1-3 in conference play, while Cumberland improves to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the MSC West.
This marked the first time all season Union scored in all four quarters as it posted a season-high 35 points. The previous season high came in the 27-0 win over Kentucky Christian on Sept. 10.
Union returns to action Saturday when it plays host to Shorter (Ga.). Kickoff is set for 12 p.m.
For the sixth time this season, Union outgained its opponent, racking up 379 yards in total offense to Cumberland's 345. Unfortunately, Union is 2-4 in those games including the last three defeats.
Sophomore Ryan Moses (Williamsburg, Ky.) finished with a solid day in the pocket with 292 yards passing and three touchdowns on 21-of-37 passes. Demetrius Hicks (Frankfort, Ky.) had a big day as he caught six passes for 125 yards and a score. With those five receptions, he now has 75 in his career to put him 14th on the all-time receiving list.
Junior Rob Brown (Daytona, Fla.) finished with 56 yards rushing to place him fifth on the all-time rushing list with 1,713 career rushing yards. He now trails Dominic Yuille by 130 yards for fourth place.
Both teams scored on their opening possessions to make it a 7-7 contest early on. Cumberland struck first with a Adrian Baker 5-yard run, and Union answered with a 12-yard scoring pass to Sterlin James (Citra, Fla.) to even the ledger with 8:22 still to go in the first.
Cumberland then scored 30 consecutive points to open up a 37-7 lead. Quan Johnson hauled in a 46-yard touchdown pass, which was followed by a James McClain 7-yard run. Jared White added a 40-yard field goal before Baker added a 9-yard scoring run. McClain then capped the rally with a 78-yard touchdown pass to make it a 30-point game with 1:44 to go in the half.
The only thing which didn't go right for Cumberland during that span was a missed PAT.
However, Union savaged some of what was left in the first half when it mounted a quick, eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive. A 27-yard pass to Josh Winkle (Christianburg, Va.) and an 11-yard pass to Hicks helped set up the 4-yard plunge by Brown, pulling Union with 37-14 at the half.
Union came up empty on its first possession to start the second half, but Pedro Pinckney (Daytona Beach, Fla.) made up for it as he intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. After the Chad Boyington (Stockbridge, Ga.) PAT, Union trailed 37-21 with 11:59 left in the third.
Johnson gave Cumberland a boost later in the third when he returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown with 5:07 on the clock. Bert Brown (Daytona, Fla.) blocked the PAT to keep the score 43-21.
Not ready to surrender, Union countered with a five-play, 69-yard scoring drive. Winkle pulled down a 24-yard touchdown pass from Moses, slicing the deficit to 43-28 with 2:11 remaining in the third. A 32-yard screen pass to Rob Brown with a 15-yard, personal foul penalty tacked on to the end of the play helped set up the score.
Cumberland looked like it was back in business on its next possession. The visitors reeled off 12 plays and ate 7:01 off the clock, but the drive stalled at the Union 32. Rather than attempt a field goal, Cumberland punted the ball, which resulted in a touchback to give Union possession on its 20.
On the very next play, Moses hit a streaking Hicks down the visitor's sideline for an 80-yard scoring strike to make it a 43-35 contest with 9:50 to play.
Union got the ball back on its 17 with 7:49 remaining. Slowly but surely, Union moved the ball down the field with an 18-yard pass to Domonique Jefferson (Lawrenceville, Ga.) putting it at the Cumberland 35. Union got as close as the 33 but turned the ball over on downs there with 3:26 left.
Cumberland collected a couple of first downs and ran out the clock to preserve the 43-35 win.
Winkle finished the game with four catches for 62 yards and a score. Defensively, William Roundtree (Ocala, Fla.) led the way with 14 total stops with an interception. Isiah Anderson (Boston, Mass.) followed with nine total tackles with a sack, and Ryan Shipley (New Tazewell, Tenn.) added eight tackles and a sack.
For Cumberland, Reed Gurchiek completed 7-of-13 passes for 152 yards and two scores. McClain ran for 81 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 83 yards and another score.
Ben Miller led the Cumberland defense with 11 stops, a sack and 3.5 tackles for a loss.