GREENEVILLE — Tusculum quarterback Bo Cordell is used to inscribing his name in the NCAA Division II record book. On Saturday, he added it once again.
On the second play of the second quarter, Cordell completed a five-yard shovel pass to Fernando Smith which gave him the record for career completions in Division II with 1,120 and now holds the record with 1,140. He passes Southwest Baptist’s Steven Gachette who tallied 1,119 from 2007-10. Cordell also went over the 13,000 passing yards mark for his storied career as he is now fourth in D-II history with 13,123 total yards.
Cordell finished the game by connecting on 31 of his 42 pass attempts for a mind-boggling 596 yards and four passing touchdowns as the Pioneers defeated Elizabeth City State 54-41. Tusculum had a school-record 782 yards of total offense.
Cordell said that the offensive numbers he put up makes the game a lot more fun.
“It’s awesome. Ever since I got recruited by coach (Marc) Kolb, I couldn’t wait to run this offense. It is such a blessing that I have had so much time to learn and linemen and running backs who can block and receivers who catch the football,” Cordell said.
There were three different Tusculum receivers who went over the century mark as Johnathan Diliberto had 153 yards, Justin Houston had 140 and Deon Hicks had 121. The Pioneers used a balanced attack as they ran the ball 45 times and threw it 42. Isaac Robinson carried the rock 17 times for 113 yards and a score.
TC coach Frankie DeBusk heaped high praise on both Cordell as well as the balance of his team on the offensive side of the ball.
“We went into the game thinking we could throw the football and that was going to be our thing. We wanted to be up-tempo and throw the football and we obviously had a lot of success doing that,” DeBusk said. “The best thing about our team right now is we can run the football when we need to. We have got some exceptional running backs that we are giving it to and our offensive line understands what we are trying to do. We are balanced now.”
Cordell echoed Debusk’s sentiment about the balance of the offense.
“When we needed to run the ball well, we ran it well and when we needed to throw it, we threw it well. Everyone did their jobs today and that was a quality win against a good opponent,” Cordell said.
The Pioneer signal-caller already holds five D-II records. They include most passing yards as a freshman, most offensive plays by a freshman, career passing yards per game, total yards per game and completions per game. Cordell now holds the Tusculum and South Atlantic Conference record for passing yards in a game.
Cordell not only got to the record quickly in the game against the Vikings but he did so with big plays. The Cincinnati-native went 10-of-15 for 165 yards in the first quarter which included long passes of 32, 31 and 25 yards. He had 331 passing yards at the half for the Pioneers.
Wesley Powell was on the receiving end of a 19-yard pass from Cordell for Tusculum’s first score. Isaac Robinson followed with a 10-yard run to put the Pioneers up 14-0. Elizabeth City State’s first score of the day came when Antonio Huff caught a 10-yard pass from Casey Turner to make it 14-7
Fernado Smith scored a pair of touchdowns for Tusculum in the second quarter, one from one yard away and one from two yards out. On the Pioneers’ fourth scoring play, Cordell connected with Deon Hicks that covered 84 yards down to the Vikings’ one yard line. The booming throw and catch was the second longest in TC history.
The Vikings Lovie Banks-Rose caught a 32-yard pass from Turner for a score and that made it 27-14 at the half.
The scoreboard would be lit up both teams in the third quarter. Cordell broke his own school record for passing yards in a game when he found Johnathan Diliberto for an 88-yard bomb. Powell followed later in the quarter with a 47-yard touchdown reception as the Pioneers went up 41-14.
The Vikings cut into the lead when Banks-Rose caught his second touchdown of the day, a 39-yard pass from Turner. After Justin Houston got into the end zone on a 49-yard catch and run, Petey Boone pulled Elizabeth City State to within 48-28 on a 4-yard play. That would be the way the third quarter would end.
The Vikings made things interesting in the final quarter. Turner hooked up with Javoris Bryant for a 20-yard touchdown and about a minute later, Turner threw a 20-yard strike to Anthony Mundle to make it 48-41. The Vikings muffed the extra point but were only one score down. Cordell, who accounted for four passing touchdowns on the day, capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 4:37 with a 1-yard quarterback keeper. The point after failed but the Vikings were unable to score again as the defense held on a fourth and eight with just under three minutes remaining.
-By Marlin Curnutt, Tribune Correspondent