/seasons/2017/contrib/2017100784p663

Whitley throws 7 touchdown passes, Lakeland outlasts Adrian in shootout

More news about: Lakeland

Michael Whitley (Sr.-Vidalia, La.) set a school single-game record for touchdown passes and Oman Smothers (Fr.-Gadsden, Ala.) intercepted a pass in the back of the end zone with 10 seconds left to preserve Lakeland University's wild 47-40 win over Adrian (Mich.) College Saturday afternoon at Taylor Field.

Whitley's 11-yard strike to Dezmon Eddie (So.-Alexandria, La.) with 1:05 left in the game put the Muskies on top one final time and gave him seven touchdown passes, a new school and Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference single-game record. It also gave Lakeland its third win of the season and a victory over a tough Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association opponent in an outstanding clash of styles that went down to the final seconds.

The Muskies (3-2 overall) got the last word in a game that was tied five times and saw neither team lead by more than seven points. Lakeland also rebounded from a sluggish first half to finish with an ever-so-slim advantage in the matchup between its NCAA Division III No. 7-ranked passing offense and Adrian's No. 7-nationally rushing attack.

Whitley actually struggled some in the first half after a flawless opening drive, completing 7 of 15 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs (2-3 overall) took a 20-13 halftime lead. He heated up in the second half, though, throwing for 315 yards and five TDs, repeatedly finding holes in the Adrian defense.

With Lakeland trailing 20-13 to start the second half, Whitley threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Dezmen Morse (Sr.-Milwaukee, Wis.) on 4th-and-goal, with Morse making a tough contested catch to tie the game at 20-20. Whitley then threw scoring passes of 58 and 54 yards to Eddie, and also completed an 18-yard dump-off to Eldrada Meeks (Jr.-Southfield, Mich.), giving Lakeland the lead back each time.

Adrian refused to go away behind its pounding running attack, which gained 304 yards on the day and keyed the Bulldogs holding the ball for more than 37 minutes time of possession. The guests tied the game one more time when David Nutter busted up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown with 2:54 left in the game, and the resulting extra point from 37 yards out after several penalties tied the game at 40-40.

Adrian's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Muskies possession at their own 35, and they needed just six plays for the go-ahead score. Whitley completed passes of 38 yards to Jody Harrison (Sr.-Pontiac, Mich.) and 18 to Allante Gardner (Jr.-Detroit, Mich.), and on 2nd-and-10 from the Bulldogs' 11, Whitley hit Eddie over the middle in the end zone for the touchdown.

Lakeland still had to withstand one final surge by Adrian, which moved from its 30 down to the Muskies' 17. That's when backup quarterback Hunter Hamm threw a pass to the back of the end zone with Smothers in blanket coverage, and the Muskies freshman cornerback caught it and got his foot down for his fourth interception this season.

Whitley finished 21 of 39 passing for 433 yards and also was Lakeland's leading rusher with 26 yards. The Muskies ran the ball well on their opening drive with four straight runs for 46 yards and ending with Whitley hitting Jamal Hawkins-Sconiers (Jr.-St. James, Mo.) for a 31-yard touchdown, but Adrian tightened up against the run thereafter and held Lakeland to 66 yards rushing for the game on 24 rushes.

All three of Eddie's receptions for 123 yards went for touchdowns, and Hawkins-Sconiers caught three passes for 92 yards. Harrison also caught six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown and also had a crucial fourth down conversion in Muskies territory in the fourth down, taking the direct snap as the upback in punt formation and plowing ahead two yards to keep a drive alive that eventually ended with Lakeland taking the lead back at 33-26.

Jerry Stokes (So.-Missouri City, Texas) led the Lakeland defense with 11 tackles, including three tackles for loss, while Dajuan Darling (Sr.-Detroit, Mich.) also added 10 tackles, including four tackles for loss. The Muskies defense was on the field for a good portion of the day but made enough big plays with 12 tackles for loss and also allowed just 12 completions in 22 attempts by Adrian quarterbacks.

Emmanuel Stewart rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns and Nutter added 150 yards rushing for the Bulldogs, who came up just five yards short of their season average of 309 rushing yards per game. Adrian placekicker Cameron Cook also converted all four of his field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder in the second quarter.

Lakeland returns to NACC play next weekend when it hosts Benedictine University for its Homecoming game at 1 p.m. at Taylor Field.

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