FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- Max Reber's one-yard touchdown run completed an improbable comeback and lifted the Methodist football team to a 24-21 win over No. 22 Christopher Newport on Saturday afternoon at Monarch Stadium.
The Monarchs (3-2, 1-1 USA South) needed to rally to post their first win over a ranked team since 2001, when they defeated Salisbury, 28-27. CNU's (3-1, 0-1 USA South) vaunted defense had given the Captains a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter when Cameron Barlow stepped in front of a Reber pass on the visitor's sideline and raced 26 yards, untouched, for a touchdown to give CNU a four-point lead.
On the Monarchs' ensuing possession, Vaughn Cross was stripped from behind by Tyrell Eaton after picking up 21 yards on second down, handing the ball back to CNU at its own 36 with 10:59 left to play. The Monarchs' defense responded with a takeaway of its own when Tyler Mitchell picked off Lyndon Garner at the MU 13-yard line. An illegal block penalty negated a 19-yard return and MU took over at its own 22 with 9:06 to play.
The Captains forced a three-and-out and after getting the ball back, MU's defense responded in kind, taking over at its own 20 yard line following a touchback on Mason Studer's punt. The Monarchs quickly moved the ball to the Captains 33 yard line and faced 2nd-and-3 before a pair of sacks sandwiched around an incomplete pass gave the ball back to CNU on downs with 3:34 to play. Looking to run out the clock, Christopher Newport was limited to eight yards and after using all three timeouts, the Monarchs forced a punt and got the ball back on their own 28 yard line with 3:04 to play and no timeouts remaining.
Following three consecutive incompletions, Reber found Anthony Radke open over the middle for a gain of 69 yards down to the CNU three yard line with under two minutes to play. Two plays later Reber plunged into the endzone with the go-ahead score, and Cody Ausherman's PAT made it 24-21 with 1:41 on the clock.
Christopher Newport put itself in position to possibly tie the game with a long field goal following a 50-yard kickoff return by Storm Parker that gave CNU the ball at midfield with 1:23 to play and two timeouts. After picking up one first down, the Captains ended up moving backwards on an intentional grounding penalty, an eight-yard sack by Navahri Holden and James Atkinson and on third down, after attempting a series of laterals CNU was assessed an illegal forward pass penalty that set up 4th-and-32 from its own 32. Mitchell then intercepted Garner's Hail Mary pass to seal the game.
The back-and-forth second half was preceded by a sluggish first half that saw Christopher Newport take a 7-3 lead into the break. The Captains scored at the 10:54 mark of the first quarter on Marcus Morrast's one-yard run, and Ausherman converted on a 23-yard field goal midway through the second period.
Methodist's defense kept CNU off the board on several occasions. After the Captains advanced to the four-yard line, Mike Jones scooped up a Parker fumble in the first quarter. Michael Johnson intercepted Morrast at the MU 27 in the second quarter and Studer pushed a 33-yard field goal wide right with 10 seconds left in the first half that would have given CNU a 10-3 lead at the break.
Morrast hooked up with Rudy Rudolph for a 43-yard touchdown pass early in the second half to put CNU up 14-3 before Reber threw touchdown passes of 12 and 37 yards to Patrick Jacobs and Cross, respectively, to push MU out to a 17-14 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Methodist outgained CNU, 453-337, and the 24 points scored by the Monarchs were more than CNU had allowed all season coming into the game. The Monarchs defense, in addition to forcing four turnovers, also limited CNU to just 122 yards on the ground, well below its 168.3 yard average coming in.
Reber finished 26-of-41 through the air for 352 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Cross had nine receptions for 150 yards, and Jacobs had nine grabs for 67 yards and each scored once. John Papillion led the MU ground attack with 34 yards on seven carries, while Reber contributed 29 yards on 14 carries with the game-clinching score.
Defensively, Holden led Methodist with 15 tackles, including 5.5 for loss (-13 yards) and a half-sack. Marlon Thomas had eight tackles, and D.J. Payne and LeTovis Davis chipped in seven stops apiece.
Christopher Newport was led by Morrast who completed 13-of-22 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown with one interception before exiting the game due to injury. Garner was 4-of-7 for two yards and was picked off twice. Richard Roethel had 127 yards receiving on five catches, and Rudolph hauled in four passes for 70 yards with a score. Paul Dukes was limited to 70 yards rushing on 19 carries (3.7 ypc), and Morrast carried 12 times for 40 yards.
Mic Edwards led CNU's defense with 11 tackles, and Evan Moog added eight stops. Derrick Adams and Drew Davidson each had a sack, and Barlow added three tackles to his interception that was returned for a touchdown.
The Monarchs are back in action next Saturday when they travel to Averett for a 1:00 pm matchup.