A late comeback attempt fell short as Lenoir-Rhyne lost to a South Atlantic Conference opponent for the first time in 20 games on Saturday, falling to Tusculum in the SAC Championship. The Bears had two possessions inside Tusculum’s 35-yard line in the fourth quarter but couldn’t capitalize in a 5-point loss.
QB Grayson Willingham threw for a career-high 353 yards and three touchdowns and moved into second place in program history in passing yards for his career. Willingham hit three different receivers for touchdowns, connecting with Dareke Young, Hakeem Meggett and Dwayne McGee. Willingham’s 355 yards were the fifth-most in a game in the 101 years of Lenoir-Rhyne Football.
Young exploded for nine catches and 166 yards to go with his touchdown. The 166 yards is the most in a game since T.J. Smith had 142 against Tusculum in September of 2018 and ranks as the fourth-most receiving yards in a game during the NCAA Era. Young’s 166 yards receiving is the 10th-best total in a single game in LR Football history.
Tusculum’s Rogan Wells threw for 438 yards, including 287 in the first half. The Pioneers had a pair of 100-yard receivers on the day as Tory Ponder had seven grabs for 123 yards and Justice Parham had six catches for 114 yards.
The Pioneers put up 28 points in the span of 17:31 of game action but the LR defense would hold the powerful TU offense scoreless for the final 28:03 of the game.
Down 28-14, the Bears answered with a 32-yard field goal and then an 11-yard TD pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 28-23 after a two-point conversion failed.
The Bears had a turnover inside the five with 7:51 to play and Tusculum marched all the way to the LR 12 with 1:50 to play. However, a Percy King interception and return to the LR 45 gave the Bears a chance to score and win the game.
LR drove to the Tusculum 31 but a fourth and 10 pass fell incomplete and gave the Pioneers the 2020-21 SAC Championship. L-R had an eight-game winning streak over Tusculum coming into the game and could have three-peated as champions with a win.
The Bears season ends at 3-1.