NAIA
NAIA
Football - Sat, Oct. 29, 2016
News Photo
7
VS
20
Pikeville
Union
Final1234F
Pikeville (Ky.) (4-5, 3-1 MSC East)00707
Union (4-5, 3-2 MSC East)770620
Barbourville, KY
Pikeville (Ky.)Indv. LeadersUnion
#30 Jamar Kirksey - 83Rushing #21 Izayah Riettie - 142
#15 Shannon Patrick - 97Passing #14 Victor Garth - 105
#13 Braxton Whitmore - 24Receiving #1 Jalen Ashby - 81
Pikeville (Ky.)Team StatisticsUnion
143Rushing Yards 228
103Passing Yards 105
4Turnovers 2
35:06Possesion Time 24:54

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – The running of Izayah Riettie (FR/Lakeland, Fla.) and a stingy defense proved to be the perfect combo for a 20-7 Mid-South Conference East victory for Union College on Saturday.

Riettie carried the ball only 10 times but galloped for a career-high 142 yards and three touchdowns, while the Bulldog defense limited visiting Pikeville (Ky.) to 246 yards in total offense.

"I think this is probably my favorite win in my career. Period," said Union coach Zak Willis. The adversity this program went through this week on and off the week was incredible. I've always heard winners come through when things are the toughest, and man, our kids were incredible today."

With the win, Union improves to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the MSC East. Pikeville is now 4-5 overall and 3-1 in MSC East play.

Union tallied 333 yards of total offense on 60 plays with Riettie making up the bulk of it. The freshman from Lakeland, Fla., recorded his first career 100-yard game, needing to touch the ball only 10 times.

Riettie has rushed for only 443 yards on the year, but he has become one of the most productive backs in program history as he now has nine rushing touchdowns. Only six other players have rushed for more in program history.

Defensively, Union shut down Pikeville all day. The Bears owned the time of possession at 35 minutes and six seconds, reeling off 79 total plays. Yet, Pikeville tallied only 246 yards in total offense to average 3.1 yards per play.

"This was one of the best defensive games I've ever had," Willis noted. "It was just an incredible win."

Union forced four Pikeville turnovers with two fumbles and two interceptions. Dallas Baxter (SO/Dothan, Ala.) collected a key interception to set up one Bulldog score and recovered a fumble as the Bears were driving in the red zone in the second half.

The Bulldogs racked up 14 tackles for a loss of 38 yards, including six sacks of 23 yards. Justavious Robinson (FR/Alexander City, Ala.) and Jake Averhart (JR/Corner, Ala.) each collected 3.0 tackles for a loss with Robinson compiling two sacks. Meanwhile, Serge Vita (SR/Pasadena, Calif.) notched 2.5 tackles for a loss with 1.5 sacks as he and Robinson finished with 14 total tackles apiece.

"When I got here, the plan was to build a championship defense," Willis commented. "I can't say if we're there yet, but we are well on our way. We've got some incredible, young talent."

Early on, it was evident the defenses were going to dominate as the teams combined for a total of one first down during the first six series of the game. Late in the first, Union was aided by back-to-back 15-yard penalties to give it the ball on their own 39. Riettie then found a seam and sprinted 61 yards for the end zone, putting the Bulldogs up 7-0 with 1:04 left in the period.

Baxter set up Union's next score when he picked off a pass at the Pikeville 21, returning it to the 15. Four plays later, Riettie punched it in from 4 yards out to make it 14-0 with 4:18 remaining in the half.

Pikeville nearly scored just prior to the break, but the Union defense held strong on an impressive goal line stand. Starting on its own 29, Pikeville moved the ball down to the Union 6 where it had it first-and-goal with under a minute to play. After a 3-yard run, the Bears called a their final timeout of the half with 20 seconds left. Seth Nichols (SO/Simpsonville, S.C.) and Jackson Tipton (SO/Greer, S.C.) stuffed Russell Gordon for no gain on second down, forcing Pikeville to quickly spike the ball to try to salvage the drive. The Bears managed to stop the clock with the spike with 1.0 second on the clock. However, Shannon Patrick's pass fell incomplete, keeping Union up 14-0 at the half.

Pikeville finally scored late in the third on a Gordon 1-yard run, making it 14-7 with 3 seconds left in the quarter.

The fourth saw a number of momentum shifts. First, the Bears got a huge boost when they blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt, recovering it and taking over on the Bulldog 24.

On the ensuing possession, Pikeville appeared to have everything in working order as it moved the ball down the field to the Union 4 for first-and-goal. After a two-yard loss on first down, Gordon lost the handle on the football, an Baxter recovered it to give Union the ball on its own 13 with 6:15 to play.

With less than two minutes to play, Pikeville had the ball back in Union territory but faced fourth-and-2 at the 31. Patrick kept the ball on a quarterback keeper, but Josh Rocker (JR/Waynesville, Mo.) stopped him at the 30, where Union took over on downs.

On the very next play, Riettie put an exclamation point on the victory with a 70-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good, keeping the score at 20-7 with 1:46 to play.

"I would say we were fortunate (to win), but we made our own breaks. We made the plays we had to," Willis said of the win.

Making his first collegiate start under center, freshman Victor Garth (FR/Decatur, Ala.) completed 6-of-16 passes for 105 yards while running for 50 yards on 17 carries.

Bulldog Notes

  • Riettie's 70-yard run is the longest run by a Bulldog of the season. In fact, it is the longest run by a Bulldog since Leonard Dixon galloped 75 yards for a touchdown against Lindsey Wilson on Nov. 2, 2013.
  • The 142 rushing yards by a Riettie is the most by a Bulldog this season. Timius Lowe (FR/Decatur, Ala.) rushed for 140 in the season-opener against Cincinnati Christian (Ohio) on Aug. 27.
  • Riettie's three rushing touchdowns are the most by a Bulldog since LaVance Anderson ran the ball in three times against Bluefield (Va.) on Oct. 18, 2014.
  • Union surpassed its point total from last season. The Bulldogs scored only 245 total points in 2015, and with two games still to play, they have posted 249 this season.
  • Vita now has 19.5 tackles for a loss to tie him for second most in program history. He also has 9.5 sacks on the year to place him fifth all-time.

Up Next

Union hits the road to face Bluefield (Va.) on Saturday in its final MSC East game of the year. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.