GREENEVILLE, TENN. — Newberry College quarterback W.T. Murden completed 21-of-25 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Wolves to a 31-17 win over the Tusculum Pioneers at Pioneer Field on Saturday.
Newberry moves to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the South Atlantic Conference with the win, snapping a three-game losing streak. Tusculum is now 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the league. Newberry jumps out of conference play next week to take on the 5-3 UNC Pembroke Braves on the road for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
Murden finished the game on a string of 11 consecutive completions as the sophomore tied his career high with four touchdown passes. Jason Livingston (Conway) had touchdown receptions of 14 and 43 yards and Corey Washington (North Charleston) had two touchdown receptions of 41 yards each.
The game did not start off well for the Wolves, as a receiver slipped leading to an interception on the opening drive in TC’s red zone and a fumble on the second drive kept the Wolves off of the scoreboard. But the tide turned when Brian Spencer (Columbia) blocked a Tusculum 52-yard field goal attempt, with the Wolves turning around for a 12-play, 70-yard drive which was converted into points on a 25-yard field goal from Kyle Mackey (New Ellenton)with 43 seconds left in the first quarter.
Taniel Massey (Lancaster) picked off a Bo Cordell pass on the second play of the ensuing drive, but Newberry couldn’t turn that turnover into points. The Wolves did force a punt on the next drive and put together a 10-play, 77-yard drive which was capped with Murden’s first touchdown pass of the day from 14 yards out to Livingston to make it a 10-0 game with 4:21 left in the half.
Tusculum answered with an uncharacteristically run-heavy drive, with the Pioneers rushing the ball 10 times on an 11-play 66-yard touchdown drive, with B.J. Spradlin’s 3-yard touchdown carry making it a 10-7 game at the half.
The Wolves forced Tusculum into a three-and-out on the first drive of the second half and Livingston returned the punt 29 yards to the TC 41 yard line. After a completion for no gain, Murden found Washington for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 17-7 with 12:34 left in the third quarter.
After a Tusculum 28-yard field goal with 4:07 left in the third quarter made it 17-10, Newberry needed just three plays to find pay dirt, with Murden’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Livingston made it a 24-10 lead with 2:44 left in the third.
The Wolves’ defense came up with a key stop early in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers had third-and-1 at the Newberry 2 and the Wolves’ defense stoned the rusher for no gain on two straight plays to turn the ball over on downs.
Newberry couldn’t find the end zone on its next two drives, and Tusculum took advantage of that to make it a one-score game on Cordell’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Ken Funnye with 5:04 left in the game which made it a 24-17 score.
The Pioneers looked to force a Newberry punt and try to tie the game, and had Newberry held to a third-and-5 at the TC 41, but Murden found Washington, who fought through pass interference and showed extraordinary balance to reach the end zone and put the Wolves up 31-17.
Cordell drove TC down the field in the waning moments of the game, but David Davis (Columbia) intercepted a pass in the end zone with 11 seconds left to seal the win for the Wolves.
Mike Hopkins (Blackstock) and Apollo Stretch (Columbia) tied for the team lead with nine tackles apiece, with Hopkins making one tackle for a loss and forcing a fumble. Letavious Williams (Ware Shoals) had two sacks in the game, while Davis added four pass breakups to his interception.
Mackey was once again perfect on his kick attempts with the 25-yard field goal and 4-for-4 on PATs. JoJo Morris (Lancaster) averaged 40.8 yards on only four punts, with a long of 57 yards.