Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer
Wingate built a 16-0 halftime lead and held on for a 16-12 victory over visiting Tusculum on Nov. 10. With its sixth-straight victory, Wingate (8-3 overall, 5-2 SAC) clinches second place in the final SAC regular-season standings.
Wingate senior defensive back Cameron Mattison celebrated Senior Day in style with a 44-yard interception return for a TD while freshman running back Nijere Peoples carried the ball 25 times for 82 yards to finish his first season with 994 rushing yards.
“We are very proud of our seniors and the great leadership they provided all year. The defense came up big all game. The 10 points off turnovers were the difference,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.
It was a dominating effort for the Wingate defensive unit. They recorded seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, forced six fumbles and recovered one of them.
The leader of the defense that night was Cardell Rawlings. He had 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble.
Offensively, the Bulldogs did just enough to win. Wingate had no turnovers and scored a touchdown and a field goal in their two trips to the red zone.
To start the game, freshman Ra’Quan Simmons returned the kickoff 51 yards. His return set up Wingate’s only offensive touchdown, a 17-yard strike from Shaw Crocker to Mason Flynt.
Following Mattison’s pick-six, Tusculum fumbled on their next possession. Wingate took advantage of the miscue, as redshirt freshman placekicker McLean Robertson nailed a 38-yard field goal to conclude the first half scoring, giving the Bulldogs a 16-0 lead at halftime.
In a scoreless third quarter, Tusculum missed two field goals attempts, one of which was blocked by Robbie Wallace from 24 yards out with 1:36 left in the frame. Finally, Tusculum scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.
With the win, Wingate advances to the NCAA Division II football playoffs this Saturday. They will play on the road against West Georgia at 12 noon.
Edited by Brendan Shriver