Senior running back Rashad Cummings scored three touchdowns and rushed for 156 yards to lead North Greenville (2-7) to a 45-21 Homecoming victory over NAIA Edward Waters (2-6) at Younts Stadium in Tigerville.
NGU snapped a four-game losing streak with its biggest offensive explosion of the season with 385 total yards. Cummings had 202 all-purpose yards, and one of his touchdowns was a 46-yard reception on a screen pass.
The Crusader defense set the tone of the game early when freshman safety Nick Rosamonda intercepted a Kamau Leitner pass and returned it for a NGU record 71 yard touchdown with 7:52 left in the first quarter. NGU then held Edward Waters on the next series and drove nine plays before Michael Sears booted a 24 yard field goal, giving NGU a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Cummings capped an eight play 80 yard drive with a two yard touchdown dive with 1:35 left in the half. Maurice Young of Edward Waters broke through NGU’s kick coverage to score on an 88 yard touchdown run on the ensuing kickoff, making the halftime score 17-7.
North Greenville immediately regained the momentum early in the second half when Cummings caught a 46 yard screen pass from Richard Harb to score his second touchdown of the game. Antoni Bellamy kept Edward Waters alive when he caught a 66 yard touchdown pass from Mike McKinzie that got the Tigers to within 24-14 with 9:21 left in the third. Cummings scored again with 1:36 left in the third period on a 61 yard touchdown dash off tackle.
Travis NeeSmith, who had four catches for 105 yards, then hauled in Harb’s second touchdown pass of the game when he connected on an 11 yard slant to make it 38-14 with 12:42 left in the game. Johnat Johnson scored on a 15 yard touchdown pass from McKinzie to give Edward Waters its final score.
Freshman Cisco Barry capped NGU’s scoring when he scored his first career touchdown from four yards out with 4:27 to go in the game. Richard Harb went 7-17 on the day for 170 yards.
NGU’s defense had several key moments that held Edward Waters in check. Senior Tyrell Davis, the ICAA national defensive player of the week, had six tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss. Xavier Boykin had five tackles, Jamarius Robinson and Doug Wilson had five each, and Andre Bernardi had 4.5 tackles and one sack. The Crusaders also added Rosamonda’s interception and one by Nathan Batchelor.
“We really got untracked early in the second half on offense and that was a big difference in the game,” NGU Coach Mike Taylor said. “I told the team at halftime, if we just stayed patient, sooner or later we would bust one. And that’s exactly what happened. Rashad put us on his shoulders in the second half and we needed him to have a big day. He had 118 yards in the second half and also had the touchdown on the screen pass. He’s had a great career for us.”
“Coach Taylor reminded us in the locker room at the half that we weren’t playing up to our potential,” Cummings said. “He’s believed in us all along, so picked up the pace in the second half. Edward Waters has a lot of speed, so we were able to catch them over-pursuing a few times. I was just able to take advantage of their mistakes.”
“We knew we were going to struggle a little because we had so many key players injured,” Taylor added. “We had three freshman wide receivers out there the whole game and they weren’t able to get off the line right away. We also Matt Moore (senior running back) and our starting center as well, so we just had to have some inexperienced guys make big plays.”
The biggest thing that happened was that we didn’t have a punt blocked for a touchdown,” Taylor remarked. “We’ve had five blocked for TD’s this year, so we changed the way we protected the punter this game, and Ronnie Partridge had several big kicks. Now, we’ve got to enjoy this game for a few days and come back on Monday and get ready for South Dakota next week.”
The Crusaders will conclude their 2008 home schedule next Saturday, Nov. 1 when they host Division I FCS team the University of South Dakota at Younts Stadium. Kickoff is at noon.