In his first game as a Blue Knight, transfer running back W.R. Sanders Jr. tied the school’s single-game record with four touchdowns to help Urbana University (2-0, 2-0 MEC) overcome a 13-point deficit in Thursday night’s 28-20 win over the University of Charleston (1-1, 1-1 MEC).
With UU clinging to a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter, Charleston missed a 49-yard field goal, and on the next play, Sanders broke free up the middle and dashed down the UC sideline for a 68-yard score to put the Blue Knights ahead 28-20. The run included a key block down field from Jesse Bray that wiped out two defenders.
Both teams were held scoreless in the fourth as the veteran UU defense stepped up multiple times with its back against the wall, including four straight stops deep in Blue Knight territory to end the game.
With 13 minutes remaining, senior Onajai Davenport picked off a third-down pass in the red zone. But, the momentum was short-lived after a three-and-out by the UU offense.
The defense remained aggressive, though, and stood tall when senior Jamari Collins blocked a 39-yard field goal attempt with 7:39 left. The Golden Eagles got the ball back again and rapidly picked up two first downs to reach the UU 20, where the drive stalled and UC turned it over on downs. Senior Justice Alexander made the big play of the drive with a chase-down sack on third down.
UU took over the final drive with 3:45 left and picked up a first down on a third-and-three play to seal the win.
The Blue Knights won their fourth straight over the Golden Eagles while improving to 5-0 in home night games.
UU outgained UC 396 yards to 247 while limiting the Golden Eagles to 11 net rushing yards for the game. UU rushed for 172 total yards, led by Sanders’ 110 on 13 carries. Sophomore wide receiver Rafael Floyd recorded a career-high 90 yards on seven catches. Senior quarterback Eddie Stockett went 19 of 28 (67.9%) through the air for 224 yards.
The Blue Knights overcame two lost fumbles and an interception, as two of those turnovers led directly to UC’s 13 points (missed XP) in the first quarter. The Golden Eagles quickly took the lead with three scoring drives on a combined total of eight plays.
UC quarterback Brant Grisel, fresh off a record-setting performance in the opener, connected with wide receiver Tremaine Ross on two passing TDs in the first quarter from 32 and 29 yards. Grisel then found his primary target Mike Strachan for a 28-yard strike with 14:20 left in the second quarter. The senior signal-caller finished 19 of 26 for 236 yards with 13 completions going to Strachan (146 yds).
Right before halftime, UU finally responded with a methodical 11-play, 44-yard drive capped by Sanders’ second TD. The Blue Knights dominated time of possession (36:09) and converted 6 of 14 third-down attempts. Three of the four scoring drives featured at least nine plays.
Sanders finished with TD runs of 4, 2, 5 and 68 yards. He tied both the UU and Mountain East Conference individual game record for most rushing touchdowns.
On defense, senior linebacker Duray Hall led with 13 total tackles (6 solo) and had two tackles-for-loss. Senior corner Sherman Watson and junior linebacker LA Kelly each had seven tackles. Junior lineman Wendell Wheeler collected his first career sack.
UP NEXT: UU will travel to Wheeling University on Thursday, Sept. 19 for 7 p.m. kickoff at Bishop Schmitt Field.
WU (0-2) is coming off a 53-10 setback at Fairmont State. The Cardinals are in their first year as a varsity program.