Behind another impressive rushing effort and a defense that held Valdosta State to two yards…
A 20-yard field goal in overtime by freshman Jake Brown capped a thrilling 31-28 walk off victory for Lenoir-Rhyne over Limestone on Saturday afternoon. The back-and-forth contest saw a bunch of game-changing plays in crucial moments by both sides down the stretch but it was the Bears who would come away with a clutch road win to stay undefeated on the year.
The Bears would strike first, taking the opening kick 75 yards on 14 plays over 7:39 capped by a strike from Jalen Ferguson to Deondre Lester for a 6-yard touchdown. A high-powered Limestone offense would answer quickly. It took just 2:50 and seven plays for Limestone to even the score at seven with Jelani Baker’s first of three touchdown grabs.
On the next drive, Limestone would make it 14-7 on a 30-yard connection from Dustin Noller to Baker. Brown would hit from 38-yards with 12:51 left in the second quarter to make it 14-10 and neither team would score the rest of the first half. After stopping Limestone on the Saints first drive of the second half, Brown would boot a 35-yarder to pull LR within one at 14-13.
Dwayne McGee broke loose for a 38-yard touchdown run and the two point conversion put the Bears up 21-14. However, Tre Stewart would take the first carry of the Saints next drive 68 yards to set up Baker’s third TD grab which evened the game at 21. However, Stewart would leave with an injury after that long run and not return. He finished the day with 217 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Limestone would take a 28-21 lead on Noller’s five-yard TD scamper and looked to seal the win with a short field goal attempt with just over five minutes left in the game. However, C’Darius Kelley blocked the kick and T.J. Blanding returned it 84 yards to knot the game at 28. After each QB threw an interception down the stretch, LR had a chance to win in regulation but Brown’s 40-yard attempt hit off the upright and the game went to OT.
The Bears defense made the Saints lose 13 yards on the first three plays and forced a fourth down attempt that wasn’t converted. LR took over and ran the ball six times for 23 yards to set up the game-winning 23-yarder. McGee finished the game with his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. He had 130 yards on 24 carries. Malakei Sumner had three grabs for 77 yards on the day.
Defensively, Jon Ross Maye led LR with 12 tackles and three tackles for loss. Devin Hibbitt had eight tackles, two interceptions and a sack on the day.
Limestone gained 516 yards on the day and LR had 292. LR won the turnover battle 3-2 and held Limestone on 0-for-4 on fourth down attempts.
The Bears are 6-0 for the third time since 2014. The last overtime game for Lenoir-Rhyne came back in start of the spring COVID season at Newberry on March 12, 2021 which the Bears won 27-20.
The Bears have now won eight straight games dating back to the end of the 2022 season, the third-longest current winning streak in Division II. The Bears are 53-12 when they play in games where they are nationally ranked.
The Bears have had the ball first in all six games so far this year and have scored a TD on their opening drive in four straight games. LR has won eight straight on the road, the eight-longest current road winning streak in DII.
Limestone QB Dustin Noller entered the game without an INT on the season but threw two today. LR QB’s had gone 118 straight attempts without an INT before throwing a pair in the second half today.
The Bears improve to 6-0 overall, 4-0 in the South Atlantic Conference. LR will return home for the only time in October with a Homecoming game against Barton. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.