ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. -- In the 100th game in program history, the
Christopher Newport University football team (2-4, 2-1) earned a
huge road victory at defending champion N.C. Wesleyan (3-3, 2-1),
23-15. The Captains are now in a three-way tie atop the USA South
standings with the Bishops and Averett University, who still have
to play eachother later this season.
The defense and special teams had a big day for CNU and rookie quarterback Lyndon Garner (Tappahannock, Va.) was poised and confident as he managed the Captains offense in his first career game.
"This was our 100th game and it's hard to remember one much bigger than this," said head coach Matt Kelchner. "The defense and special teams deserve a ton of credit. They were both tremendous. We created turnovers and found new ways to score. The defensive front was great -- we put a lot of pressure on their quarterback, we forced fumbles and we made him hurry -- that always leads to good things."
The Captains, in fact, did put a lot of pressure on N.C. Wesleyan's freshman QB Jordan Vann. Vann was sacked three times and had one interception with two more passes broken up. The Captains D also forced four fumbles in the game, recovering all four.
The interception, by sophomore Michael Ruckman, led to the Captains opening score. Ruckman picked off Vann at the Wesleyan 39-yard line to give CNU terrific field position. Garner completed a 4-yard pass to the tight end, Justin Reidelbach, followed by senior running back Keith Gaines ripping off a 35-yard touchdown run.
The score would remain 7-0 for the rest of the half and CNU would miss a field goal on their first possession of the second half. On Wesleyan's first possession, though, Kevin Quicker would have his punt blocked by Tyshawn Harris, recovered in the endzone by CNU's Brandon Webster to put CNU up 14-0 with the PAT.
CNU would pull ahead, 23-0, with scores on their next two drives. CNU would add a 27-yard field goal by Ryan Trotman on their next drive, followed by a Markeese Stovall 4-yard scamper for a touchdown. Garner set up the touchdown with a 14-yard toss to senior T.J. Foster to get into the Bishops red zone.
"We didn't want to put the game on Lyndon's shoulders, but he did everything we asked him to do," said Kelchner. "He really didn't make any mistakes and that's exactly what we were looking for."
The Bishops would score 15 straight points to pull within one possession, but were unable to recover the onsides kick as CNU was able to kneel and seal the win.
Garner finished the game an efficient 8-of-12 passing for 41 yards and zero interceptions. Meanwhile, Gaines had a great day on the ground to lead CNU's offense. He averaged nearly 7 yards per rush with 123 total yards and a touchdown.
"Gaines missed a lot of practice this week and the way he played, you never would have guessed it," Kelchner said.
Defensively, senior Adrin Diggs led the way with 10 tackles, while Ruckman added nine with the forced fumble and interception.
Vann through for 226 yards to lead the way for NC Wesleyan while Jamal Smith added 75 yards on the ground.
After today, CNU, N.C. Wesleyan and Averett are all 2-1 to lead the USA South.
"We're back in the hunt in the league race after everything got turned upside down in the league today," said Kelchner. "The schedule is in our favor now, with three of the last four at home."
CNU returns home for two straight, starting with next Saturday's tilt against Greensboro College. The game will begin at 1:00 pm at POMOCO Stadium next Saturday, October 23.