Greeneville, TN – The offense accumulated 536 yards of total offense on 95 offensive plays, however, the North Greenville University football team dropped its third straight game and first in SAC Alliance play with a 33-21 defeat at the hands of Tusculum College on Saturday night.
After the North Greenville defense forced the Pioneers to punt on their first offensive series, the Crusader running game took over and led North Greenville to a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Senior wide receiver Taylor Malphrus put the ball in the end zone form eight yards out for his first touchdown of the 2012 season to give the Crusaders a 7-0 advantage. Tusculum tied the game just minutes later after recovering a fumble and driving 49 yards in just 36 seconds to make the score 7-7 at the end of the first quarter of play.
The Pioneers used a 10-play, 72-yard drive to open the second quarter to go ahead by one touchdown, a lead that would last until the half.
The Crusader offense was able to make some necessary half time adjustments and get on the board midway through the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Joey Carter drove the team 58 yards on six plays, finishing the drive with a 23-yard pass to junior wide receiver Freddie Martino, his second receiving touchdown of the season, to tie the game at 14 points apiece.
Tusculum scored on the very next series after quarterback Bo Cordell tossed his third touchdown pass of the game. The Pioneers missed an extra point to make the score 20-14 heading into the fourth and final quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Crusader offense to begin the fourth quarter, junior linebacker Braelen Meredith intercepted a pass from Cordell and returned it 23 yards to the NGU 45-yard line. Three plays later, senior wide receiver Troy Jones broke off a 41-yard run and was forced out of bounds at the TC 4-yard line to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Martino, his second touchdown of the game and fourth of the season. The Crusaders took the lead after a successful extra point by sophomore kicker Justin Gravely made the score 21-20 with 9:46 left on the clock.
The Pioneers returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards to set up an 8-yard touchdown pass from Cordell to tight end Wesley Powell to take a 26-21 lead.
The Crusader offense failed to complete on a fourth down conversion attempt, giving the Pioneers the ball at their own 18-yard line with 4:50 remaining in the game. Thanks in large part to an 84-yard pass from Cordell to wide receiver Xzanvion Smith, Tusculum scored from five yards out to score for the final time and hand North Greenville the 33-21 loss.
Carter recorded his first career 200-yard passing performance as he finished the game 22-for-39 for 235 yards and one touchdown, his second of the season. Martino led all receivers with a game-high nine receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown, as well as a touchdown on the ground. Fresman Darius Paulk recorded 15 carries for 64 rushing yards, while Carter rushed nine times for 62 yards of his own.
Senior linebacker AJ Jones led the Crusader defense with nine total tackles, while Stefan Bynoe and Michael Klein each finished the game with seven tackles and three tackles for loss. Meredith filled up the stat sheet, recording three tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception.
The Crusaders (0-3) will be action on Saturday, Sept. 22 as they host Mars Hill College in the 2012 home opener at 7 p.m.