PIKEVILLE, Ky. - Freshman quarterback Chandler Whittlesey threw for a career-high four touchdowns, and junior Domonique Jefferson put the finishing touches on one of the most outstanding seasons by a Union receiver ever. However, it was not enough for the Bulldogs to pull out the win as host Pikeville (Ky.) posted the 56-38 decision on Saturday.
The Bulldogs end the season 3-8 overall and 2-3 in Mid-South Conference East play.
Whittlesey had previously thrown for a season-high three touchdowns in the 45-35 win at Bluefield (Va.), but he found the end zone four times today in completing 19-of-32 passes for 246 yards. The 19 completions and 244 passing yards are also career highs for the Union signal-caller.
Meanwhile, Jefferson capped off arguably one of the best seasons ever by a Bulldog receiver. Against Pikeville, he caught five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns as he finished the year with 41 receptions for 897 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is the 17th player to haul at last 40 receptions in a season, and he finished two yards shy of setting the single-season record for receiving yards. Shawn Kelley had 899 yards in 2007 on 69 receptions. Jefferson's 11 touchdown catches are tied for second-most in program history. Only Kyle Callahan had more touchdown receptions (13 in 2008) in a season, and Sean Mackey also had 11 during the 2010 campaign.
Of the 17 players to amass 40 receptions in a season, no player had a better yards-per-catch average than Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson's 21.9 yard-per-reception average is 5.2 yards better than the second-place person (Courtney Elesby at 15.7 in 2004) on the list.
The first half was a shootout.
Whittlesey hit Jefferson for a 10-yard scoring pass to give Union the early 7-0 lead, but Pikeville scored on a 25-yard pass and a 65-yard punt return to take a 14-7 lead into the second quarter.
The Bulldogs exploded for 24 second-quarter points to take a 31-28 halftime lead. Whittlesey had touchdown passes of 16 and 14 yards, while Leonard Dixon added a 1-yard touchdown run. As time expired in the half, Alex Sigmon booted a 32-yard field goal to send Union into the break with the lead.
Pikeville scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to take a 35-31 lead, but Union answered midway through the quarter to reclaim the lead. Whittlesey found Marcus Ford for a 6-yard scoring play, lifting the Bulldogs to a 38-35 advantage with 8:12 to go in the third.
However, the Bears (7-4 overall, 3-3 MSC East) closed out the game scoring 21 unanswered points en route to the 56-38 decision.
Pikeville narrowly outgained Union 532-522, but the Bears did so on only 49 plays. Quarterback A.J. Graham had a big game as he completed 17-of-23 passes for 306 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 90 yards and three more scores on seven carries.
Dixon posted his sixth rushing season of the season, leading the Union ground attack with 126 yards on 22 attempts. Jared Smith caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
By the Numbers
- The 24 second-quarter points were the most points Union scored in a quarter all season.
- This was the second time Union collected over 500 yards in total offense. The Bulldogs had 544 in the 45-35 win at Bluefield on Oct. 19.
- Dixon finished the year with 925 total rushing yards, ranking as the eighth-best rushing season in program history.
- Dixon now has eight career 100-yard rushing games.
- Dixon also moved past Armond Smith for eighth-place on the career rushing list. Dixon now has 1,487 career rushing yards.
- Union ended the year scoring 282 points, the 10th most in program history.