Oct. 1, 2009
Rome, Ga. - Shorter College had nearly fought all the way back.
As the whistle sounded to signal the start of the fourth quarter, the Hawks had crawled back to within seven after trailing visiting Campbellsville University 25-7 at halftime, and now faced a fourth down and four, with plenty of momentum, from the Tigers' 34-yard line, seemingly ready to cap another scoring drive and potentially tie the game.
Needing four yards, the Hawks' managed just three and a half.
The Tigers promptly poured salt in the wound, as three plays later, back up quarterback Robert Hill found Michael Thomas for a 73-yard score, putting Campbellsville up 35-21 and powering the visitors to a 42-28 upset of No. 10 Shorter at Barron Stadium in the College Fanz NAIA Game of the Week.
"We had such a big challenge at the half to learn that it is not a disgrace to get knocked down, it is a disgrace to stay down," said Hawks' head coach Phil Jones. "To our kids' credit, they responded in the second half and fought hard.
"We were at the peak in fighting back [after pulling to within a touchdown] and that play cut the rope on us."
A.J. Cooley rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns, and quarterback Ben Williams added 103 yards on 22 totes, but Shorter was unable to sustain any meaningful offensive possessions in the first half - aside from a Cooley 64-yard scoring jaunt - in falling behind by 18 at the break.
"We moved the football, but we knew coming in that their defense was more highly touted than their offense," said Jones. "Unfortunately, both of them gave us trouble tonight."
Campbellsville (3-2) found an offensive rhythm immediately, opening the contest with a 12-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a David Hon 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Tigers' tailback Dy'lan Underwood added a seven yard touchdown run and Harold Small a 100-yard kickoff return as Campbellsville raced out to a 15-7 lead after the first quarter.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the game was Shorter's inability to defend Campbellsville's passing attack.
Tigers' quarterback Nathan Cooper threw for 273 yards and a score on 21 of 31 passing including a 14-yard touchdown to Calvin Mann in the second quarter. The Hawks, who entered the game allowing just over 274 yards-per-game, surrendered 524 to the Tigers, 346 through the air.
Shorter mustered a small rally to begin the second half, outscoring Campbellsville 14-3 in the third period behind a pair of big plays.
Antwon Appleton scored on a 42-yard run with 11:18 to play in the third quarter and Cooley capped a quick three-play, 51-yard drive with a six yard touchdown set up by a big 41-yard completion from Williams to T.C. Jay that made the score 28-21 with 4:01 remaining in the quarter.
The Hawks had one last chance to stage a comeback trailing 35-28 with under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, forcing Campbellsville into a third and 14 at the Shorter 41-yard line, but Cooper found Mann for 18 yards and a crucial first down across the middle and finished off the Hawks with a 23-yard touchdown run on the very next play to account for the final 42-28 margin with 4:28 remaining.
Campbellsville upended a top-ten team for just the second time this decade, spoiling Shorter's highest-ever ranking after only four days at the No. 10 slot.
Shorter (3-2) must refocus quickly as a road date with No. 7 Lambuth looms next Saturday, Oct. 10. Lambuth topped Shorter 42-38 last season at Barron Stadium, the only Hawks' loss in the Mid-South Western Division last year.
"We will have to challenge the team once again," said Jones. "We will base our challenge on how we responded in the second half. I expected them to respond and that is the positive that we will take from this game."