Wolves ride smothering defense to 30-7 win

NEWBERRY – Newberry found itself trailing visiting UVa-Wise 7-0 early in the second quarter, but 24 unanswered points by the Wolves’ offense, a suffocating defensive effort, and a pick-six on the final play gave Newberry a 30-7 win on Homecoming Saturday at Setzler Field.

Newberry’s (2-4, 2-2 South Atlantic Conference) defense gave up just 112 yards on the day, the least allowed to a Division II opponent in nine years. The Wolves had a pair of interceptions, broke up seven passes, and only had one player record more than four tackles in the balanced effort.

The Wolves also made a living in the Cavaliers’ (1-5, 0-4 SAC) backfield, racking up seven sacks and totaling 12 tackles for loss accounting for 54 yards lost. Newberry’s defense limited the visitors to just 1.9 yards per play.

UVa-Wise’s longest drive of the day was a 28-yard first quarter touchdown drive precipitated by a 38-yard punt return. Seven possessions netted 10 yards or less, including two that went for negative yardage, as the Wolves forced five three-and-outs.

With Newberry trailing 7-0 and two minutes left in the first quarter, the Wolves’ offense went to work. Colton Bailey found Bobby Irby for a 43-yard strike into Cavaliers’ territory one play before Logan Bailey’s 19-yard rush put the Wolves inside the red zone. The drive was given new life by a pass interference penalty, and two plays later Tylik Johnson found the end zone from five yards out to tie the score at 7-7 with 13:32 to play in the period.

Johnson would lead the Wolves with six catches for 71 yards and was the third leading rusher with 20 yards on two carries and the touchdown. Seven Newberry players finished with at least 13 yards on the ground.

Newberry forced a three-and-out on UVa-Wise’s next possession before embarking on a 70-play drive in nine plays. Colton Bailey found Bryson Woodruff for 30 yards to move into UVa-Wise territory on the first play and converted a 3rd and 6 with his legs, then threw a strike to Johnson for 25 yards.

Three plays later, Cade Ruff took the ball on what looked to be a reverse pass, but seeing no one open, darted into the end zone from 13 yards out on his first collegiate touch to give the Wolves a lead they would not relinquish.

Newberry’s defense forced another punt, one of 11 by the Cavaliers on the day, before Brentley Allen’s first-career touchdown on a 14-yard over-the-shoulder grab capped a 54-yard drive to stretch the lead to 21-7 at the break.

The 21-point outburst continued a trend for UVa-Wise that has seen the Cavaliers be outscored 92-8 in the second quarter this season.

Shea Rodgers nailed a 43-yard field goal with 41 seconds left in the game to make the score 24-7. The kick was a redemption of sorts for the senior, who had an earlier attempt blocked an pushed a 42-yard try wide right in uncharacteristic fashion.

Alex Smith put the final punctuation on the contest, stepping in front of a Lendon Redwine pass and racing 42-yards to paydirt as time expired that energized the season-high crowd of 3,347. Both halves ended with an interception—Shavares Crockett snuffed out a Cavaliers’ drive with a pick in the end zone on the final play of the first half.

The game was a rude welcome to UVa-Wise, which is joining the South Atlantic Conference after competing in the Mountain East Conference for its first six years as Division II members.

Anthony Blue led the Wolves with six tackles and a pass breakup. Keito Jordon had a monster game with three stops in the backfield and two sacks, while Ty Kelly added two sacks as well. The pair accounted for three quarterback hurries. In all, nine different Wolves finished with at least one tackle for loss and five with a sack. Krishaon Jackson broke up a game-high three passes and made one tackle.

The Wolves travel to Catawba next Saturday for a South Atlantic Conference clash. Kickoff is set for noon at Shuford Stadium for the 83rd all-time meeting between the Wolves and Catawba Indians.

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