Lexington, VA- The North Greenville University football team secured its first victory over a Division I-AA opponent since the 2010 season, defeating Big South Conference member Virginia Military 37-24 on Saturday afternoon.
The Crusaders received the kickoff of begin the game and marched down the field 72 yards on nine plays, ending the drive with a 22-yard field goal from junior kicker Justin Gravely to take the early 3-0 lead.
After forcing Virginia Military to punt on its first drive of the game, the Crusaders and Keydets traded turnovers before North Greenville used a five-play, 53-yard drive that ended with a 23-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Nelson Hughes to redshirt freshman receiver DeVontez Rouse. The score gave the Crusaders a 10-0 lead at the conclusion of the first quarter of play.
Gravely put the Crusaders ahead by a score of 13-0 with a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter until VMI scored on a 47-yard touchdown pass on the following drive to bring the score to 13-7 with 8:57 remaining in the second quarter.
North Greenville used a 45-yard field goal from Gravely to build upon their lead on the following drive, followed by a 25-yard pass from Hughes to Freddie Martino on back-to-back drives to extend the North Greenvillel lead to 16 points.
VMI ended the first half with a 37-yard field goal to make the half time score 23-10 in favor of the Crusaders.
The Crusader defense forced VMI to punt on its first drive of the second half and a 21-yard return by freshman Nigel Gay gave the offense a short field. The North Greenville offense made the most of the opportunity, driving 22 yards on just four plays, finalized by a 2-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman running back Trey Walker to make the score 30-10 with 11:56 to go in the third quarter.
The Keydets used a 22-yard touchdown run to cut into the Crusader lead before Hughes scored a touchdown of his own on a 14-yard scramble as North Greenville carried a 37-17 lead into the final quarter of play.
The teams traded possession in the final quarter with VMI scoring its final touchdown on a 6-yard touchdown pass late in the quarter as the Crusaders secured the 37-24 victory on the road.
The North Greenville offense totaled 504 total yards on 78 plays, headlined by Hughes who finished the day 23-for-35 with 289 passing yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing eight times for 39 yards and a score.
Martino led all receivers with 12 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown, while Rouse had a breakout game, catching five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown of his own and rushing for 15 more yards . The Crusaders also ran for 215 total yards, led by T. Walker’s 63 yards and one touchdown and freshman Simeon Byrd’s 58 yards on 10 carries.
On defense, the Crusaders held Virginia Military to just 22 total rushing yards and 391 total yards on 70 offensive plays. Freshman Tony Godbolt recorded a career-high seven tackles a nd three pass breakups in the game, while redshirt freshman Reubyn Walker also recorded seven tackles, including one tackle for a loss and .5 a sack.
Senior Braelen Meredith was in the backfield all game, finishing with six tackles, two tackles for a loss and two sacks as freshman Quan Weeks recorded six tackles of his own. Junior Eric Mitchell also kept pressure on the VMI backfield, finishing the game with four tackles, including three tackles for loss and .5 a sack, while junior Cejay Thomas and sophomore Zamardre Wingfield each totaled five tackles in the contest.
The Crusaders (2-0) will return to Tigerville, SC for a home contest against South Atlantic Conference member Tusculum College on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. in Younts Stadium.