RICHMOND, Va. – Newberry suffered its first regular season loss to a non-Division I opponent in over a year on Saturday, seeing a last-gasp drive snuffed out inside enemy territory to seal a 31-23 loss at Virginia Union.
The Wolves (0-2) had streaks of 10 wins overall and seven on the road against non-Division I competition snapped with the loss, which represented Newberry’s first trip to the state of Virginia in 27 years and dropped Newberry to 9-3 all-time against teams from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Virginia Union (1-1) outgained the Wolves 425-237 and more than doubled Newberry’s average yardage per play. The Panthers outscored Newberry 14-3 over the final 22 minutes of the game and kept the Wolves out of the end zone for the entire second half despite Newberry driving into Virginia Union territory on four occasions.
Much like last week’s game against The Citadel, Chance Walker provided a thrilling Newberry highlight. The redshirt freshman opened the scoring for Newberry with a 100-yard kickoff return in the first quarter that tied the game at 7-7, marking the second consecutive week with a touchdown for the Swansea product.
The return set a new school record, surpassing Josh Pierce’s 98-yard return vs. Benedict in 2000 as the longest in program history, and was the first time Newberry has returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Corey Washington ran two kicks back against Carson-Newman in 2013. He became just the second South Atlantic Conference player in the last 26 seasons and sixth in league history to return a kickoff 100 yards or more.
Newberry’s other touchdown marked a pair of firsts for the Wolves, with redshirt freshman Greg Ruff connecting with junior wide receiver Dalton Brown from 29 yards out with 7:32 to play in the first half. The strike marked the first scoring play in either player’s career and represented Newberry’s only passing touchdown of the day.
Brown finished as Newberry’s second-leading receiver, catching two passes for 32 yards. Markell Castle led the Wolves in yardage for the fifth consecutive game, finishing with 88 yards on three receptions. The junior now has 1,167 yards in his career, 245 from matching Cole Watson for 10th on the school’s all-time receiving list.
Anfernee Moffett led both teams with nine tackles on the day, seven of them solo stops, and tallied a tackle for loss. Hampton transfer Keito Jordon finished with five stops, including a sack for a 15-yard loss, and added a quarterback hurry. Eight Wolves finished the day with at least one stop behind the line of scrimmage.
Virginia Union opened the scoring with a 93-yard touchdown rush seven minutes into the game and closed it with a 69-yard pass with 4:26 to go while its defense limited Newberry to six second-half points despite excellent starting field position for several Wolves’ drives. Newberry began a drive at the Virginia Union 28-yard line with the game tied at 17 early in the second half, but the Wolves had to settle for a 24-yard Shea Rodgers field goal following a 10-play drive that netted 20 yards.
Later in the quarter and trailing 24-20, Newberry took over at the Virginia Union 18 following the fifth interception of senior cornerback LaQuan White’s career. But the Wolves could drive no further than the 11, with Rodgers tacking on another field goal. He would go 3-for-4 in the contest, finishing with the most made field goals in a single game since the 2006 season.
Newberry drove 42 yards in eight plays on its final drive, but saw a pass intended for Wes Jordan fall incomplete on fourth down.
The Panthers were paced by Tabyus Taylor, who netted 109 yards and two scores on four carries as Virginia Union became the fourth straight Newberry opponent with a 100-yard rusher. Darius Taylor was limited to 10-for-25 for 176 yards, a touchdown, and an interception through the air.
Newberry opens its home schedule next week, welcoming Virginia University of Lynchburg to Setzler Field on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.