LEBANON, Tenn. - Union nearly came back from a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit; however, host Cumberland (Tenn.) held on for the 45-43 decision on Saturday.
The loss drops Union to 1-5 on the season, while Cumberland improves to 4-2.
Michael Nwokoji collected his second touchdown of the day on a 54-yard run to put Cumberland up 45-30 with 6:17 to play.
But Union was not about to call it a day.
Starting its next drive on its own 46, Union needed only two plays to find the end zone. Hogan Goodson hit Renardo Stokes for a 42-yard pass to move the ball to the Cumberland 12. On the very next play, Zach Martin powered the ball in for his first collegiate score, pulling Union within 45-37 with 5:50 still to go.
Cumberland went three-and-out on its next drive and punted, giving Union the ball on its own 43. The drive appeared to be stalling as Union faced third-and-13 at the Cumberland 43, but Goodson hooked up with Domonique Jefferson for a 43-yard strike to make it 45-43. Union went for 2, but Goodson was stuffed on the run to leave it a two-point margin with 1:49 to play.
With no timeouts remaining, Union was unable to get the ball back as Cumberland took a knee on three straight plays to run the clock out, sealing the 45-43 decision.
Holding the ball for 33:39, Cumberland dominated time of possession and ran off 15 more offensive plays than Union. Yet, Cumberland only held a 489-441 edge in total offense. Nwokoji led Cumberland's ground attack with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Broc Loveless rushed for 96 yards and a touchdowns and Reed Gurchiek ran for 92 and two scores. Cumberland rushed for 311 yards.
For Union, Goodson completed 9-of-17 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while Chandler Whittlesey threw for 100 yards and a score on 5-of-12 passing. Jefferson caught only two passes, but they went for a 40- and 43-yard touchdowns. Stokes caught three passes for 57 yards, and Jared Smith had three receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. Brian Clark led Union's rushing game with 83 yards on 16 carries.
Cumberland took the early lead on a 34-yard field goal, but Union took a 13-3 advantage thanks to a Leonard Dixon 15-yard touchdown run and Chris Pinnock returning a fumble 14 yards for a score.
In the second quarter, Cumberland outscored Union 14-7, but the visitors held a 20-17 lead at the half.
After Cumberland reclaimed the lead early in the third, Jefferson hauled in a 40-yard touchdown pass to put Union back up 27-24. However, Cumberland found the end zone twice more before the fourth quarter to take a 38-27 lead into the final period.
Alex Sigmon booted a 25-yard field goal midway through the fourth to bring Union within 38-30, setting up the wild finish.
By the Numbers
- With his two touchdown catches, Jefferson now has six touchdowns on the season and leads the team in scoring with 36 points.
- Jefferson also has 15 career touchdown receptions, tying him for sixth in program history.
- The 43 points are the most Union has scored in game this season. The previous high was 24.
- Ryan Shipley posted his fifth double-digit tackle outing of the season as he and Jake Johnston each had 11 to lead Union.
- Neither team did particularily well on third down with Union going 4 of 13 and Cumberland 4 of 15. However, Cumberland was 3 of 4 on fourth down, while Union went 0 for 2.
Union stays on the road for another week as it travels to Bluefield (Va.) for a Mid-South Conference East contest. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.