Gardner-Webb holds off Presbyterian, 21-15
Kenny Little ran for a career-high 172 yards and two touchdowns and Gardner-Webb held on to beat Presbyterian, 21-15, Saturday in both teams' season finale.
Little's 65-yard touchdown run with 13:33 to play in the game put Gardner-Webb (3-8, 2-4 Big South) up 21-2. After Presbyterian (2-9, 0-6 Big South) rallied to trim the lead to 21-15, Little barreled four yards on fourth-and-one with 30 seconds left down to the Presbyterian 21-yard line to seal the win.
The Blue Hose got a 23-yard touchdown pass from Kaleb Griffin with 11:38 to play in the game to cut the lead to 21-8 and Griffin found a streaking Michael Ruff over the middle for a 49-yard score with 6:15 to play to get within two scores.
Gardner-Webb's next drive stalled and Presbyterian got the football back at its own 36-yard line with 2:38 to play. Sophomore defensive end Shaquille Riddick came up with the defensive play of the afternoon for Gardner-Webb on second down, sacking Griffin on second down and forcing a fumble that Preston Pemasa recovered at the 34.
The Runnin' Bulldogs handed the ball off to Little four-straight plays to salt the game away.
"[We wanted them to] finish. People only remember the last thing," said head coach Ron Dickerson, Jr., "The season didn't go the way people wanted it to go, but if you saw the game today and saw the energy those kids played with today it makes you feel good. Those kids came out with great energy and I appreciated that."
Gardner-Webb jumped on top first with 5:30 left in the opening period, with Lucas Beatty hitting Kenny Cook from 42 yards out. Little added a seven-yard scoring run with 12:53 to play before halftime, but the extra point was blocked and returned by L.J. Perry for a defensive two-point conversion.
Neither team could mount much of a threat the rest of the half, but Presbyterian did drive within field goal range with less than a minute on the clock. Aaron Mayes' 41-yarder missed to the right, however, and Gardner-Webb led 13-2 at the break.
Gardner-Webb posted 442 yards of total offense and 25 first downs on the afternoon, with Little spearheading a ground game that piled up 203 yards on 48 attempts. Little averaged 5.9 yards per carry, totaling more than half (29) of GWU's carries in a workmanlike effort.
"We had been doing well throwing the ball, but our senior offensive linemen have bought into running the ball," said Dickerson. "With Kenny [Little] having such a good day it really is a positive feeling to see those guys go out that way.
"We came out early throwing the ball to soften them up a bit and then we were able to run the ball with some success."
Beatty was sharp early, completing 8-of-9 passes for 105 yards and a score in the first quarter. The redshirt sophomore finished by connecting on 17-of-25 passes for 235 yards and a score, hitting Cook seven times for 85 yards.
Demarcus White added a career-high five catches for 70 yards, Deonte Swinton had four catches for 61 yards and Seth Cranfill had a 23-yard catch late in the first quarter. Juanne Blount carried 12 times for 51 yards in support of Little.
Gardner-Webb's defense, playing its second-straight game without All-America candidate Tanner Burch, held Presbyterian to just 30 yards rushing on 26 carries - posting four sacks and nine tackles for loss. The Blue Hose had 282 yards of total offense.
Bradley Taylor led the way with a career-high 13 stops (seven solo) and a tackle for loss. Riddick had a career game as well, totaling 10 tackles (five solo), 2.0 tackles for loss and a forced fumble on his sack. Riddick also had three of Gardner-Webb's seven quarterback hurries.
Pemasa, Maurice Bryan and O.J. Mau also had sacks for Gardner-Webb.
Presbyterian got a career-high passing effort from Kaleb Griffin, as the youngster completed 22-of-32 passes for 252 yards and a pair of scores. Ruff had nine catches for 109 yards and Anderico Bailey finished with four for 56 yards.
Lance Byrd carried 11 times for 41 yards to pace the rushing effort, which was hampered by 35 yards in losses. Donelle Williams finished with 14 tackles and Joe Wideman had 10 hits and four tackles for loss for the Blue Hose defense.
Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian have each won 17 of the 34 games in the series, which dates back to the 1970 season. GWU has won three of the four meetings at the NCAA Division I level (since 2008).
*GWU Sports Information contributed to this report.