Non-conference Alexander Central: 3 Mooresville: 0 Bandys: 11 Forestview: 1 Draughn: 2 Ashe County: 0…
Behind another impressive rushing effort and a defense that held Valdosta State to two yards rushing, the Lenoir-Rhyne football team won 35‐7 on the road to advance to the NCAA Division II semifinals.
The LR offense had a pair of 100-yard rushers in Zavion Turner-Knox and Dwayne McGee. Turner-Knox had 145 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns while McGee had 102 yards on the ground with a pair of touchdowns as well.
Meanwhile, the Bears defense was amazing against the ground attack of Valdosta State. Averaging 130.5 yards per game this season, the Blazers totaled two yards on the ground and only 143 in the air.
After a scoreless first quarter that saw LR have a touchdown come off the board due to a penalty and a short field goal attempt missed, the Bears would erupt in the second stanza. At the 9:49 mark of the second quarter, Dwayne McGee punched it in from one yard out to give LR the 7-0 advantage. It was the 13th game that LR had scored first and gave the Bears a 13-0 record when scoring first.
Zayvion Turner-Knox had a 2-yard to give LR a two-touchdown lead. The TD was set up by a blocked punt by Ben Watson that was recovered by Malakei Sumner at the 17 yard line of VSU. The next Blazer possession resulted in a turnover as Rashad Yelding picked off Sammy Edwards pass and returned it to the Blazer four yard line. On the first play of the next drive, Sean White ran it in from four yards out as the lead swelled to 21-0.
Valdosta St. went three-and-out but a great punt backed LR up to their own 2-yard line. However, two Turner-Knox carries later, it was 28-0. The first carry went 11 yards and then an 87-yarder busted the game open. It was the longest run in an NCAA Playoff game in program history. One more turnover, this one a fumble on the ensuing kickoff after the touchdown, would make it three first half turnovers to go with the blocked punt.
The only touchdown drive from the Blazers opened the second half but the LR defense suffocated them the rest of the way. Chris Brown would add another interception as the Bears had four takeaways and the blocked punt. McGee’s final TD ended the scoring as LR sealed the 35-7 win.
Turner-Knox finished with a career-high 145 yards rushing on 15 carries. McGee had 102 yards rushing on 22 attempts. As a team, LR ran for 307 yards on 52 carries.
The Bears held VSU to just two yards rushing on 18 carries with a long of 11. LR sacked Edwards four times and held him to 14 completions on 35 attempts for 143 yards with his 2 INT’s. Edwards was just named the Regional Offensive Player of the Year.
Andre Jefferson broke the career record for sacks with his second half QB sack and also broke the record for most tackles for loss in a single season. All four of Jefferson’s tackles in the game were for a loss and his sack passed Jaquan Artis’ career mark of 29. Yelding had two sacks to go with his interception and added a fumble recovery.
The game was played in a driving rain that started in pregame and continued throughout the entire game. This was the first-ever win for LR over Valdosta. The two teams met in the playoffs in 2014 and 2018 with the Blazers getting wins each year. The only other LR team to capture an NCAA Regional Championship was the 2013 squad that advanced to the National Championship.
The LR defense permitted the Blazers to 145 total yards on 53 plays. Coming into the game, VSU averaged 455.8 yards per game. Jon Ross Maye topped 100 tackles on the season. The first time LR had a 100-tackler since Sherrod Williams in 2018.
This was the 11th all-time NCAA Playoff win in program history, all coming since 2012.
The last time LR had a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game was back on Sept. 16 against Erskine. The 13 wins match the program record which was set in 2013.
The Bears will now play in the NCAA Division II semifinals, going on the road to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. Kickoff is set for 12 noon eastern on Saturday, December 9th. Coverage on WHKY Radio will begin at 11:45am.