Takeaways are great, but stop after stop without letting your football opponent’s offense get even a whiff of the paint on the goalposts is just as effective.
No. 8 Georgetown College did grab an interception Saturday, increasing its tally of forced turnovers to a dynamite dozen, but bend-don’t-break timeliness took center stage in a 24-0 Mid-South Conference squelching of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee.
“That’s sort of a big plus even when the game is decided over the last few minutes,” GC coach Chris Oliver. “You could see guys get really excited about keeping that goose egg up there.”
The Tigers (4-0) forced seven punts, stopped two drives on downs and denied another with a pick by Davon Starks. Cumberland never nudged past Georgetown’s 23-yard line after the Phoenix’s opening drive stalled there on a pass break-up, also courtesy of Starks.
It was the first shutout for GC since a 38-0 trouncing of defunct Cincinnati Christian University on No. 2, 2018.
“Our defense is playing really solid football to start the season, and we’ve continued to improve,” Oliver said. “I thought it was a very complete game on defense, so it was great to be able to finish it off for 60 minutes and keep them off the scoreboard.”
Chad Holleran set the tone for the Tigers with a staggering 17 tackles, all but four of those solo efforts. Two of his stops went for negative yardage, and he also broke up two passes.
A pair of combined sacks by DJ White and Jacob Harmon helped contain Cumberland to 248 total yards.
Two long drives and two big plays inflicted the damage in GC’s fourth double-digit win to start the season.
Drew Hartz hits Dillon Warren with a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap the Tigers’ 10-play, 77-yard opening march. Darius Neal’s runs of 24 and 11 yards and a personal foul against the Phoenix accelerated the drive.
White and Harmon combined to throw Phoenix QB Luke Holloway for a six-yard loss after Cumberland ventured into Georgetown territory late in the first quarter.
That led to a punt and a touchback, setting the stage for another 14-play parade from the Tigers. Hartz scrambled for 15 yards on third-and-13 on the final of the period, and Neal christened the second stanza with a 20-yard burst.
Two incomplete passes in the red zone forced GC to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Chris Cline and a 10-0 lead with 12:08 to go in the half.
Starks came up big again to stifle Cumberland’s next foray. He forced a fumble that the Phoenix recovered, then shut down a keeper by Holloway a yard shy of the stick on third-and-short.
“With where football’s at these days and offenses being more high-powered than 15, 20 years ago, and the pace of the game and tempo where we run more plays it seems like, keeping an opponent off the scoreboard is very hard to do, Oliver said. “Props to our defence. They had a great day.”
GC’s next two possessions sputtered, but the Tigers found their second wind after a shanked punt put them in business at their own 46 with 40 seconds left.
Hartz managed the clock with completed passes to Warren, Josh Gary and Aaron Maggard, leaving enough time for LaDarion Montgomery to deliver a backbreaking 24-yard TD run with three seconds on the clock.
Defenses dominated a scoreless third period. While Cumberland held Georgetown to six total yards in that stretch, the Tigers continued their lockdown to the tune of 26 Phoenix yards on 17 plays.
“We were more efficient (this week. We still want more explosive plays,” Oliver said. “We had a couple big runs in the first half and probably got away from those things a little bit. Credit to them for adjusting. We probably should have given Darius the ball a little more in the second half.”
Freshman QB Gehrig Slunaker guided GC’s only scoring drive of the second half. He found Maggard for gains of 19 and 14 before connecting with JC Shegog for a 41-yard TD. Cline’s PAT provided the sealed the final score with 13:47 remaining.
Slunaker and Hartz were a combined 18-for-29 for 187 yards. Neal led the Tigers with 11 carries for 87 yards.
“We were playing a team that was trying to keep the ball away from us,” Oliver said. “It was kind of a weird flow of the game. We didn’t have a ton of possessions.”
Homecoming is a big one Saturday, when GC welcomes No. 13 Bethel (Tennessee) to Toyota Stadium for a 1:30 pm kick.