By: Adam Ledyard (ETBU Athletic Communications)
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. (KMSS/KTAL) – After getting into a 14-0 hole early, the East Texas Baptist University football team racked up over 500 yards of total offense while hanging on to a 37-31 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers. It is the first season opening loss for UWP since 1998. ETBU is now 1-0 and is the second straight season opening up with a win with a win after their COVID-19 spring win over Southwestern University.
With 524 total yards of offense, ETBU had 332 passing yards from Troy Yowman on 34-of-54 passing and three touchdown passes. Cornelius Merchant picked up a pair of 60+ yard touchdowns on his way to a 187 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also caught seven passes for 56 yards for 243 total yards of offense. Kaleb O’Bryant (six receptions, 64 yards), Semaj Boyd (three receptions, 76 yards), and Davion Carter (one reception, nine yards) each caught a touchdown. ETBU’s defense stepped up big as KJ Kelley led with eight tackles while Kenneth Bardley and Chase Thompson (fumble forced and fumble recovery) each intercepted a pass.
For the Pioneers, Colin Schuetz passed 351 yards on 22-of-40 attempts with four touchdowns. Wide receiver Brandt Stare caught seven passes for 173 yards and two scores. Alex Blizzard led the defense with eight tackles while Samuel Tausz intercepted a pass.
ETBU’s defense took the field first and held the Pioneers to a three-and-out. A bad snap by UWP would set up ETBU’s first offensive possession inside the 10-yard-line but they were unable to capitalize. UWP would get on the board first with a deep strike to lead 7-0 at the 10:49 mark. Stopping ETBU three-and-out deep in their own territory, another touchdown pass guided the Pioneers to a 14-0 lead with 7:47 on the clock. ETBU’s ensuing drive picked up a first downs, including two fourth down conversions only to be denied a score. Their defense would then record an interception from Bradley and Merchant followed with a 65-yard house cutting run to come within seven by end of the first quarter (00:22).
Each team opened the second quarter with a touchdown drive as Yowman would answer the Pioneers with a four-play 68-yard drive ending with a touchdown pass to Boyd to trail 21-14 (12:55). ETBU’s defense would keep UWP off the scoreboard with a pair of defensive stops and Yowman connected with Davion Carter for nine yards to tie the game at 21 with 3:08 left. UWP’s chance to go up at the break ended with a fumble recovered by the Tigers.
Neither side found the end zone in the third quarter in a strong defensive battle. After both teams punted on their opening third quarter possession, ETBU was able to get the ball to the UWP 30-yard line. Renalties moved them back to where they attempted a fourth-and-six conversion, which was unsuccessful. ETBU’s defense again kept UWP without a first down. However, the Pioneers intercepted a pass to retake possession going into the fourth quarter.
UWP retook the lead on the opening play in the final quarter, 28-21, on a 46-yard pass. Once again, ETBU had an answer when Merchant broke off a huge run for 60 yards and the tying touchdown, 28-28 (12:06). ETBU’s defense would make two defensive stops with an interception by Thompson and then record a safety for their first lead, 30-28 (9:14). On the ensuing drive after the free kick on the safety, ETBU ran 11 plays and killed nearly five minutes before recording a touchdown pass to O’Bryant pushing the lead to nine, 37-28 (4:23). The Pioneers would kick a field goal and cutting the lead to six, 37-31, with 2:23 left in the game. UWP had one last chance getting the ball with just over a minute left in the game. They drove to the 50-yard line but their chances of a miraculous finish ended with a sack by Jahkamian Carr and an incomplete pass with 27 seconds left. The Tigers took victory formation and one snap to kneeing for the season opening win.
ETBU heads to Belton, Texas, on Saturday, September 11, to open American Southwest Conference play against #1 the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor at 6:00 pm.