BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - It was a day of milestones for the Union football team as the Bulldogs posted a 37-14 victory over visiting Bluefield (Va.) on Saturday.
"We're excited we won," said Union coach Tommy Reid. "We started the game better than we have been, and we did some good things on both sides of the ball today. We still have some things to clean up like penalties and negative plays, but we're getting there."
With the win, Reid became the program's all-time wins leader with 47 victories at the helm. In his 12th full season, Reid owns a 47-71 overall record as he surpasses J.R. Bacon for the mark. Bacon coached from 1929-41 and posted a 46-33-12 record.
Meanwhile, senior running back Rob Brown became the second player in program history to amass over 4,000 career all-purpose yards. Brown amassed 87 yards rushing, 23 receiving and 95 in kickoff returns to give him 205 all-purpose yards on the day. He has 4,179 all-purpose yards in his career and trails only Kevin Bradshaw's mark of 4,782 for the record.
Union is now 3-2 overall, while Bluefield is 0-6 on the year.
Defensive end Mike Beard only had four tackles on the day, but he nearly set a school record. All four of Beard's stops were sacks, putting him a half sack away from Brandon Webb's record of 4.5 sacks set against Georgetown (Ky.) on Oct. 28, 2006.
"(Getting to the quarterback) is something he's always been good at," Reid said of Beard. "We feel good about lining him up against anybody."
Beard has 6.5 sacks and 11 total tackles for the year.
Unlike how all of its previous games have started, Union got the offense going early and built and early 13-0 lead. Coming into the game, Union had been outscored 23-7 in the first quarter and 79-20 in the first half. However, it was a different story for the Bulldogs.
Union took the opening kickoff and moved it 65 yards in five plays to take a 6-0 lead. Mike Brinkley hit Brown for a 17-yard pass for the game's first score with 13:11 still on the clock. The PAT was no good, leaving it a six-point game.
Taking advantage of bad snap on a Bluefield punt, Union's next possession started on the Rams' 31. Three plays later, Brinkley found William McGarvey in the end zone for a 12-yard scoring pass. Jared Miller's PAT made it 13-0 with 8:43 to go.
Bluefield counted with an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive to cut the deficit to six. Eating 5:33 off the clock, Greg Hampton hit Marion Harris on a 29-yard screen pass to make it 13-7 Union at the 3:10 mark in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs took care of all the scoring in the second quarter. Brinkley scored on a 14-yard run to give Union a 20-7 lead, and Miller added 24-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs up 23-7 at the half.
Early in the third, Leonard Dixon found the end zone on a 2-yard run to boost Union's lead to 30-7.
It remained that way until the Rams weaved together an 11-play, 98-yard scoring drive. Harris rambled his way in from 16 yards out, and after the PAT, Bluefield had made it a two possession game as Union led 30-14 with 12:38 to play.
However, Brown responded with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to put Union up 37-14 for good. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown by a Bulldog since Nov. 6, 2010, when Armond Smith returned a kick 77 yards for a score against Shorter (Ga.).
"That was a big play for us," Reid said of Brown's kickoff return. "We haven't used Rob as a returner much since his freshman and sophomore years, but we put him back there to provide us a spark. (Bluefield) had made it a two-possession game, and we wanted to do something to stop any momentum they might've been getting. Rob did that with that return.
"Really proud of his effort and for him reaching the all-purpose yards milestone," Reid added.
Brown finished the day with 87 yards rushing on 11 carries and 23 yards receiving and a score on three catches with the 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. With the three receptions, Brown became the 21st player in program history to record 60 receptions in a career. He is tied for 20th all-time with Scott Chaney at 61 career receptions. Brown has 61 career catches for 775 yards and six touchdowns.
Union outgained Bluefield 332-230 in total offense. Brinkley completed 18-of-31 passes for 207 yards and two scores. Jontrel Colbert led Union with four catches for 46 yards.
Defensively, Ryan Shipley led the way with six total stops, while Darrin Greene followed with five total tackles with 1.0 sacks and an interception - the first of his career. Seth Jones, Darius Thomas and Cole Vires each helped out with five total stops.
For Bluefield, Greg Hampton completed 16-of-33 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Rodrell Smith hauled in seven passes for 36 yards. Harris led the ground attack with 73 yards and score on 11 carries.
Union hits the road next Saturday to face No. 19 Cumberland (Tenn.). Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. Eastern.