Cats Lose Heartbreaker in Opener
The No. 11 Wildcats entered the game riding a seven game home winning streak and appeared to take early command of the contest as they jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two field goals by sophomore Robby Phillips. Philips hit a 35-yard attempt with just over ten minutes left in the first quarter and then connected on another attempt from 23 yards out early in the second stanza.
The Cat defense had held the Wise offense at bay until quarterback Tye Marshall hit receiver Ryan Bouldin on a 57-yard pass play which put Wise deep into Wildcat territory. A few plays later Marcus Jones would scoot in from 1-yard out and after the point after by Melshen, Wise would lead for the first time at 7-6.
Bethel responded with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Wil Masoud to Justin Brandy and led 13-7 after the PAT by Phillips. The score would come at the 2:10 mark of the period and that is how the first half ended.
After a scoreless third quarter with Bethel missing on a couple of scoring chances, Wise would retake the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 12 play 90-yard drive with Marshall scoring on a 1-yard dive into the north end zone. Melshen's PAT made it 14-13 Wise.
Bethel's Phillips missed a 41-yard field goal attempt and Wise took advantage with a Zach Cochran 5-yard touchdown scamper capping off an impressive 76-yard drive. Wise converted on four third down opportunities in the drive. The Melshen point after gave Wise a 21-13 lead.
With three and half minutes left Bethel's Masoud would answer the challenge taking the ball at the Cat 25-yard line and marching his team down field and scoring from 15 yards out to pull his team within two. All-American Cordarious Mann tied the game on a two point conversion run. With just over 40 seconds left in regulation Wise elected to run the clock out and the teams went to overtime tied at 21.
UVA-Wise won the overtime coin toss and elected to put Bethel on offense first. Mann appeared to have a first down when Wise defender Nehemiah Jones stripped him of the ball and put Wise on offense. That set up the Melshen game winner from 41-yards out spoiling the debut of Bethel Coach Chris Elliott.
Freshman running back Connery Swift led Wise with 146 rushing yards. Bouldin had three catches for 61 yards.
Redshirt Freshman Raquis Hale led Bethel with 109 yards rushing. Mann had 82 yards on the ground. Bethel outgained Wise 389 yards to 319 on the night but it was not to be with Bethel falling to 0-1 while Wise returned home at 1-0. Bethel is 0-2 in overtime affairs at Wildcat Stadium falling to Lambuth in a 2008 heartbreaker.
Coach Elliott commented on the contest." We simply did not play well but give Wise credit as they made some big plays which really hurt us. We were inconsistent on both sides of the ball at times and I thought that cost us in the long run. We had some missed opportunities and that hurt us." He added, "I told the guys one game does not make a season. There were a lot of positives tonight and we will look at the film and work hard to get ready for No. 3 Marian."
Bethel will face Marian in the Big River Bowl in Dyersburg, Tennessee Saturday at 5 p.m.