|Campbellsville University players celebrate their win in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Victory Bowl Saturday against Greenville College, 21-7. It is CU’s first football title of any kind since winning a Mid-South Conference title in 1997. (Photo courtesy of Richard RoBards / Campbellsville University)
By Chris Megginson / Campbellsville University Sports Information
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky — Players did not want to leave the HIG Field Saturday afternoon as the 2011 football season came to a close. They wanted the celebration to play on, and on, as Campbellsville University defeated Greenville College, 21-7, to claim its first National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Victory Bowl championship. It’s the first football championship of any kind for the Fighting Tigers since CU claimed a Mid-South Conference title in 1997.
“The senior class has been asking ourselves, ‘How are we going to be remembered?’ To go out as champions in a hard-fought game like this is an honor, a real honor,” said senior linebacker Dwight Houston of St. Louis, Mo. “I’ve been here four years, and there’s not been a better feeling. This is it.”
Campbellsville relied on a strong defensive effort to stop Greenville’s option attack, and did so well. CU’s trio of linebackers (Nick Reed, Houston and Blake Young) combined for 27 tackles, including two solo sacks , while holding the Panthers to 164 yards of total offense – well below their average of 493 yards per game. But it wasn’t just the linebackers, as the whole defense made it hard to name a Defensive Player of the Game.
“Our defensive line eliminated their ability to run the inside the game, which is big on the option. They just took that away. The linebackers took the quarterback out and made him start pitching the ball. The defense overall played lights out. Other than one miscue, I think we did an excellent job,”said Perry Thomas, CU head coach and defensive coordinator. “You could tell our guys were hungry for this win. IN breakfast this morning you could see a different focus. They came out here and did what they needed to do against a very good football team.”
Both teams got on the board quick to make it a 7-7 game with only 1:05 off the clock. The Tigers dialed up some trickery on the second play of the game with a wide-out pass by Bobby Leonard (Dixie Heights HS) for a 58-yard touchdown to Diaz Bolden (Louisville-Central). After David Hon’s extra point was good, Greenville answered with an 86-yard kickoff return by Tre Lewis.
However the special teams highlight proved to be the only points of the day for Greenville in its fourth Victory Bowl appearance.
After both teams traded punts or turnovers for most of the first half, as Kiso Faletufuga had a forced fumble in the first quarter for Greenville, recovered by Tlyer Penn, and Andy Lozano picked off a Nathan Cooper pass in the end zone to end a Campbellsville scoring threat.
With 3:17 left, Panther quarterback Brendan Chambers found a hole and ran 57 yards to the Tiger 20-yard line. It was Greenville’s first trip to the red zone and real scoring threat on offense in the game. The stay didn’t last long, as Darius Skinner slapped the ball loose from Chambers on the next play. Rodrick Dickerson caught the ball off the bounce and returned it 82 yards down the Tiger sideline for the go-ahead touchdown. With 2:34 to play, Campbellsville claimed a 14-7 lead to enter halftime.
In the third quarter, Campbellsville built on to its lead with a 19-yard field goal by Hon to go up by 10 points, 17-7. Late in the third, Tiger punter Carl Ojala placed a punt to the Greenville 3. With the Panthers’ back against the goal line, running back Bryce Wright was unable to find any room, being dropped for a 1-yard loss, and then dropped for a 2-yard loss and safety by Dickerson. Houston forced the play by eliminating pitch and taking out Chambers.
Leading 19-7 to start the fourth quarter, Campbellsville began to put the game away. Coffee helped run the clock down, collecting 64 of his 139 yards in the final quarter. With five minutes left, Ojala once again placed a punt inside the Panther 10. After being forced to punt out the back of its end zone, Greenville opted for a safety on a punt, giving CU its 10thdefensive point of the game.
Following the game, Coffee was named the Victory Bowl Offensive Player of the Game and Dickerson was named the Defensive Player of the Game with his eight defensive points and seven tackles. The junior out of Memphis, Tenn., had three tackles for a loss for a total of 11 yards, the most of any player, and had a big third-down pass break-up.
Campbellsville University finishes its season 7-5 for the second-straight year, claiming the Tigers’ third straight seven-win season. The 24 wins in three seasons are the most in three seasons since CU last won at least seven games per season in 1990, 1991 and 1992.