Tusculum drops season opener at Urbana in offensive showcase

URBANA, Ohio — Urbana University quarterback DJ Mendenhall accounted for five touchdowns, while the Blue Knights held off a furious rally and visiting Tusculum College, 53-33 Saturday afternoon at University Stadium.

 Urbana (1-0) and Mendenhall jumped out to a 34-0 advantage in the first half, scoring on five consecutive possessions, while the TC offense faltered in the early going.

 But Tusculum (0-1) would outscore Urbana by a 33-6 margin over the next quarter and a half to pull within a touchdown at 40-33 with less than four minutes remaining in the contest.

 Both teams combined for over 1,100 offensive yards in the contest. Urbana finished with 618 yards, including 313 rushing and 305 passing. Tusculum answered with 530 total yards, including 418 passing and 112 rushing.

 Tusculum quarterback Bo Cordell, a junior from nearby Cincinnati, passed for 399 yards on 38-of-58 passing, including four touchdowns. Xzanvion Smith posted nine receptions for 125 yards as he was one of nine TC players to record a catch on the day.

 Mendenhall went 22-for-30 for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 12 times for 54 yards and three scores. Jeffvon Gill rushed for 126 yards on 19 carries and a pair of scores, while David Hill also broke the century mark with 122 yards on 25 attempts and a TD. Mendenhall’s favorite target was Joe Webb, who posted nine catches for game-high 151 yards, including a two-yard catch by Mendenhall with 2:46 left before halftime as the Blue Knights led 34-0.

 Tusculum’s ensuing drive stalled at the TC 37. But on fourth down and three yards to go, Pioneer punter Andy Rosetti was successful on a faked punt as his jump pass found defensive lineman Desmond Raiford as he rumbled 19 yards for a first down. Tusculum seized the momentum and marched down the field as Cordell completed a fiveyard toss to 6-10 tight end Wesley Powell in the back of the end zone for TC’s first score. The extra point attempt was unsuccessful as the score remained 34-6 with 13 second remaining.

 TC recovered the on-side kick but would run out of time as they trailed by 28 points heading to the locker room. locker room.

 The Pioneers received the football to start the second half and Cordell and the Pioneers wasted little time as he connected on a 54-yard touchdown pass to Ken Funnye. The extra point was blocked as Urbana led 34-12.

 Urbana also took advantage of its first possession of the half, as the Blue Knights went seven plays on 92 yards and Mendenhall capped the drive with a six-yard touchdown run. The kick was no good as Urbana led by 28 points again at 40-12.

 Later in the third quarter, Urbana’s drive stalled at its own 37-yard line and were forced to punt. Brian Marshall returned the ball 46 yards to the UU 37, putting the Pioneers in great field position. Marshall would finish off what he set up as he posted backto-back 10-yard runs, including a TD rush at the 5:23 mark of the third quarter. Logan Cornelius’ kick moved TC to within 40-19.

 On the ensuing possession, Urbana would get to its 38, but would be forced to punt. Clay Lust hit a 61-yarder that died on the TC 1. But on the play, Urbana defensive back was whistled for a late hit on Marshall, resulting in his ejection from the game. After roughing the passer penalty by Urbana, the Pioneers moved down the field as Cordell connected on nine of his 10 passes on the drive, including a 15-yard TD catch by Kyle Dickey on the first play of the fourth quarter. Cornelius’ kick trimmed the Urbana lead to 40-26.

 The two teams would trade possessions. The Tusculum defensive forced a turnover with 10:26 left in the game as Raiford caused a fumble and was recovered by Josh Davis at the Urbana 25.

 A 12-yard completion from Cordell to Powell moved the ball to the two-yard line. But the Urbana defense held, including on fourth-and-goal from the oneyard line as Cordell was stopped short of the end zone with 8:31 left.

 The Tusculum defense held as Urbana was forced to punt once again as the Pioneer took over at the TC 48. Four plays and 52 yards later, Cordell capped the scoring drive with a 20-yard pass to Diliberto 3:58 remaining in the game.

 With a 34-point lead now dwindled to just a touchdown, Mendenhall and the Blue Knights orchestrated a five-play, 78-yard drive, including a 37-yard pass play to Webb and a 29-yard TD run by Gill as the Blue Knights extended its lead to 47-33 with 1:40 remaining.

 Tusculum would fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Urbana would put up a late touchdown for the final margin.

Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm