ROME, Ga. - No. 14 Union College nearly pulled off the miracle comeback, but host No. 25 Shorter (Ga.) College held on for the 33-27 victory Thursday.
The loss dropped Union to 6-2 overall, while Shorter improved to 6-2.
Shorter controlled the flow of the game with 404 yards rushing. The Hawks had just 3 yards passing and ended up outgaining the Bulldogs 407-234 in total offense.
A.J. Cooley paced the Hawks with 122 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 30 carries. Ben Williams added 103 yards on 21 attempts.
Union was held to 79 yards rushing with Terence Pollock (Orange Park, Fla.) accounting for 76 yards on 20 carries. Mike Brinkley (Anthony, Fla.) completed 15-of-27 passes for three touchdowns and 155 yards.
The game started off well for Union as Shorter took the opening possession and went three and out. The Bulldogs moved the ball 62 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a Brinkley 8-yard pass to Rolando Dyer (Lawrenceburg, Ga.) for a 7-0 advantaged with 7:54 left in the first.
Shorter answered with a four-play, 56-yard drive to pull within 7-6. Cooley punched the ball in for 10 yards out, but the two-point conversion was no good to leave it 7-6 with 6:07 on the clock.
In the second quarter, it was all Shorter as Cooley added two scores on runs of 10 and 1 yards to give Shorter a 21-7 halftime lead.
The second half didn't start well for Union as Brinkley was picked off on the second play from scrimmage as the Hawks took over on its own 44. Eight plays later, Raymond Nesbitt scored on a 14-yard run to put the Hawks up 28-7 with 9:55 remaining in the third.
Union's offense was stagnant during much of the third, but Marekus Smith (Lithonia, Ga.) blocked a punt and Union got the ball back on the Shorter 2-yard line. Two plays later, Pollock powered the ball in from the 1, cutting the margin to 28-14 with 2:45 left in the third.
Lukas Gonzalez booted a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth, giving Shorter a 31-14 cushion.
Union began to rally back. Piecing together a 10-play, 80-yard drive, the Bulldogs pulled within 31-21 as Brinkley hit Kyle Callahan (Covington, Ky.) for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 6:27 remaining.
Shorter appeared as if it was going to ice the game as Gonzalez attempted a 20-yard field goal, but Cain Smith (Lafayette, Ga.) blocked it and Ty Harris (Monroe, Ga.) picked it up and returned it to the Shorter 14. On the ensuing play, Brinkley and Callahan hooked up again, making it 31-27 with 1:24 to play. The PAT was no good, leaving it a four-point game.
Callahan finished with six catches for 83 yards and two scores, giving him 104 career receptions. He is the fifth player in program history to record 100 career catches and he is one behind Jon Smith for fourth on the all-time list.
Union attempted an onside kick, but Shorter recovered it on the Union 37. However, the Hawks went three and out and had to punt with 28 seconds remaining. Gonzalez' punt appeared to be heading toward the end zone, but the ball took a Shorter bounce and went out of bounds at the 1-yard line.
The Bulldogs tried to pull out a miracle, attempting to latteral its way to a score on the final play. Yet, Chris Thomas (Hopkinsville, Ky.) ended up being downed in the end zone to give Shorter a safety, making the final 33-27.
Senior linebacker Willie Williams (Miami, Fla.) recorded a school-record 22 tackles with two going for a loss of 4 yards and a forced fumble. Smith helped out with 14 tackles, while Patrick Burke (Erlanger, Ky.) chipped in 10 stops.
For Shorter, Logan Lollis set the tone with 10 tackles.
Union returns to action on Nov. 1 at No. 11 UVa-Wise for a Mid-South Conference East showdown. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.