Runnin’ Bulldogs find offense in win
It turned out to be a great way to break out of the doldrums of an offense that couldn’t find the end zone.
No. 25 Gardner-Webb broke a 12-quarter drought of not scoring a touchdown after quarterback Lucas Beatty completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus White on the opening drive of the game.
Five touchdowns later and it appeared the drought was put well behind the Runnin’ Bulldogs in a 55-7 rout of Point (Ga.) University.
Beatty seemed unflappable completing 21-of-25 for 223 yards and two touchdowns against the Skyhawks (2-2). The two touchdown passes were just under half of the touchdown passes Gardner-Webb (4-1) had on the season to this point.
In addition to the 10-yard strike to White, Beatty found wide receiver Kenny Cook from 24 yards out and backup quarterback Nat Dunlap connected with Earnest Harmon from 4 yards out in the fourth quarter.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs got rushing scores from J.J. Hubbard (29 yards) and two from Rod Talley (9 and 1 yard).
Coupled with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown from Keon Williams and it spelled for a lot of time in the end zone for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
“We made some plays … made some big plays,” said GWU head coach Carroll McCray. “We have some things that we need to correct.”
Nine different players caught passes for the Runnin’ Bulldogs on a night when GWU racked up 503 yards of total offense.
Talley, a backup running back, led all rushers with 116 yards on 17 carries — mostly in the second half. Cook had three catches for 52 yards while backup tight end Mike Estes had three catches for 50 yards. Estes has filled in the last two games for All-Big South Conference selection Seth Cranfill following a concussion Cranfill suffered against Richmond.
Starting running back Juanne Blount had 105 all-purpose yards — including 68 yards on 11 rushes.
“I thought the guys were pretty focused,” McCray said. “I thought they understood our mission.”
Defensively, Gardner-Webb held one of the best rushing teams in NAIA to just 71 yards on the ground, including holding Rufus Mason — one of the NAIA’s leading rushers — to just 74 yards.
In the air, the Skyhawks managed just 95 yards, led by Anthony Armstrong’s 52 yards on four receptions. Point managed a total of 166 yards of offense against the Big South’s best defense against the run.
Linebacker Tanner Burch had eight tackles coupled with Chad Geter’s seven stops. Freshman linebacker Aaron Cook had six tackles and one for loss.
“It worked out where we made some stops on defense and we were able to get things done on offense,” McCray said.
The win marks the best start for Gardner-Webb since they posted a similar start in 2002 leading up to a 9-1 finish and a Big South Conference championship.
“We want to play tough defense and run the football,” McCray said. “We want to let Lucas throw the ball when it’s time to throw the football.
“We have to keep running the football and be physical,” “That’s our niche and that’s our opportunity to win football games.”
The Runnin’ Bulldogs open a two-game road trip at 12 p.m. Saturday when they face UNC-Charlotte at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Charlotte knocked off Big South member Presbyterian, 45-21 Saturday.