Photographs by Andy Shupe
Bryant running back Latavion Scott tries to avoid Fayetteville linebacker Trindyn Meadows during the first half of Friday night’s game at Harmon Stadium in Fayetteville. Scott finished with 158 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in Bryant’s victory.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
FAYETTEVILLE -- Bryant overcame a two-touchdown deficit to defeat Fayetteville 38-37 in overtime at Harmon Field on Friday night.
"This speaks volumes for where our program is headed and what we're trying to get done," Bryant Coach Buck James said.
Because of a battered defense that made countless plays to keep them in the game, the No. 3 Bulldogs' coaching staff decided to go for a two-point conversion and the victory after Cody Gray caught a touchdown pass from Darius Bowers during Fayetteville's overtime possession.
But Kris Mulinga couldn't scoop up a low Bowers pass in the back of the end zone, giving the No. 2 Hornets (2-0) the nonconference road victory. Mulinga, who had a game-high 12 receptions for 128 yards, slipped free behind the Bryant defense on a perfectly-designed play, but came up a few fingertips short of giving Fayetteville (1-1) the victory.
Mulinga repeatedly slammed both hands into the field turf after missing the catch.
"We had an opportunity and that's all you could ask for," Fayetteville Coach Billy Dawson said. "If you throw that ball 10 times to Kris, he'll catch it nine. He has high expectations for himself and is a great competitor. Kris and Cody made great plays all night to keep us in it."
Dawson credited Bryant's "huge offensive line" and the power running of Latavion Scott (29 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown) for wearing down the Bulldogs' defense. By the time overtime began, Fayetteville had lost four starters, including both cornerbacks, its middle linebacker and a defensive tackle.
"We were beat up and playing a lot of sophomores, so we felt that it was to our advantage that if we scored, then go one shot and try to win," Dawson said. "We were up two scores late, but we got tired and missed a lot of tackles of defense. Give those guys credit. They wore us down by running the ball and being physical and they're huge up front. They took advantage of all that.
"It came down to a play. We had a chance to win it. We'll try it again next week."
Facing a 31-17 deficit late in the third quarter, Bryant battled back with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives. What was most remarkable was the Hornets did most of it without Scott, who was injured on the first drive when he took a hit in the right shoulder from Fayetteville free safety Will Litzinger.
In Scott's place, Kris King and Ahmad Adams kept the offense moving, as did a few nice runs by junior quarterback Ren Hefley. King caught a touchdown pass in overtime that, along with Martin Ramirez's PAT, proved to be the game-winner. Adams had just three runs for 14 yards, but they were crucial gains.
"We matured, there's no doubt about it," James said. "Scott's a great player and we could have put him back in, but we have seven games left and we had some other guys that we thought could do the job as well, and they did."
Fayetteville's defense and special teams came up with key plays to help the Bulldogs take a 17-10 lead into the locker room.
Litzinger stepped in front of a Hefley pass for an interception that he returned 50 yards for a touchdown. It evened the score at 7-7 and was even more instrumental after the Bulldogs' first two offensive drives stalled out.
A blocked punt by Redarian Cobbs gave Fayetteville excellent field position at the Bryant 30-yard line. Two plays and a 29-yard pass from Bowers to Mulinga later, Jackson White took a direct snap and scored on a one-yard plunge to give Fayetteville a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. It was the first of two touchdowns for White.
Both teams traded field goals before Fayetteville's defense came up with another stand when Scott was sandwiched between Coleman Johnson and Dotson Schaefer for no gain on fourth down to keep the Hornets from scoring with under a minute remaining in the first half. Johnson also had a third-down sack to force a punt earlier in the half.
"We had plenty of opportunities," Dawson said. "I thought those guys just got tired. We couldn't sustain enough offensively and then when we scored, we scored too quick sometimes."
Sports on 09/09/2017
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