HICKORY, N.C. – A final drive came up short as the Lenoir-Rhyne Football Team fell in the NCAA Quarterfinal to West Florida by a final score of 43-38 on Saturday afternoon. The Bears trailed by 16 points with 14:54 to play in the fourth quarter but cut the lead to two with a pair of touchdown runs by Ryan Carter in a 2:15 span. After a UWF field goal with 2:11 to play gave the visitors a five-point lead, LR had a chance to go down the field and win but the drive came up short. The loss ended the longest current home winning streak in Division II as the Bears had won 15 straight inside Moretz Stadium a streak of 760 days.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP:
Final: No. 20 West Florida 43, No. 6 Lenoir-Rhyne 38
Records: Lenoir-Rhyne (13-1), West Florida (11-2)
Location: Hickory, N.C. | Moretz Stadium
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STATS OF THE GAME:
• The game was as even as the score was with West Florida narrowly outgaining Lenoir-Rhyne 454-438. The Bears had a 23-22 edge in first downs.
• Austin Reed was one of the offensive stars for the Argonauts as the redshirt freshman QB went 21-for-36 for 360 yards and three touchdowns, hitting three different players for scores. Top target Quentin Randolph finished with eight grabs for 114 yards.
• The Bears were led by junior RB Jace Jordan who rushed for 114 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Jordan broke a much-needed 70-yard rush with the Bears trailing 40-24 in the fourth quarter to set up the first of Carter’s two fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns.
• Seven different Bears recorded a catch in this one, led by Carter who had three grabs for 47 yards. Dareke Young had a 19-yard touchdown catch and Jaquay Mitchell had a team-high four catches.
• Special teams proved to be the difference in this one. The Bears muffed a punt on their first possession of the game and gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown, the first given up by LR since 2016. Each team missed a field goal and the Bears also fumbled the snap on a punt in the fourth quarter.
• D’Anthony Bell had two of the biggest plays in the game for UWF, recovering the muffed LR punt in the first quarter and ending the comeback attempt with an interception with 1:03 left in the game. Bell finished with seven tackles and two pass breakups.
• Clayton Horn led the Bears with nine tackles and fellow senior LB Sherrod Williams had five tackles and a sack. Senior DB Landon Scott intercepted a pass to set up a fourth-quarter score for the Bears and also forced and recovered a fumble on the goal line early in the first quarter.
• Each team was superb on third down. The Argos converted 7-of-12, while the Bears went 8-for-14.
• This was the third time in program history and second straight year the Bears advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals. However, LR is just 1-2 in this round. This is also just the second home playoff loss in team history, dropping LR to 8-2 in the playoffs at Moretz Stadium. Conversely, UWF is a perfect 7-0 in road playoff games and advances to the second Final Four in program history.
BEYOND THE BOXSCORE:
• The Bears broke the team record for most points scored in a season which the set last year. LR’s 588 points top the total of 574 in 2018.
• Grayson Willingham moved into third place in LR history in career passing yards, surpassing Joel Roope. Willingham also moved up the career completions list with his 14 connections today giving him 269 which ranks fifth.
• Junior PK Chase Allbaugh’s six points today gives him 264 for his career, tying the record for most points in a career by a kicker. Allbaugh draws even with Colin Corpe.
• Lenoir-Rhyne is now 8-5 all-time in the NCAA Playoffs. All five of the Bears NCAA appearances have come since 2012.
• The Bears are now 40-7 all-time as a ranked team and 23-4 at home in those games. In games where both LR and its opponents are ranked, the Bears are 7-4.
• This was the first all-time meeting between the two programs.
• The Bears are 25-3 over the past two years with all three of those losses coming against Gulf South Conference opponents. LR lost to West Alabama and Valdosta St. last year before today’s defeat.
• The 13 wins match the program record for most wins in a season.
• The 43 points given up today are the most allowed by LR at home since West Alabama scored 46 in the season-opener in 2017.
• LR’s last home loss came against Carson-Newman on Nov. 4, 2017.