BUCKHANNON — The West Virginia Wesleyan Bobcats found offense a struggle in its opening day matchup and fell to Johnson C. Smith University Saturday at Cebe Ross Field, 49-6.
The Bobcats’ most successful drive of the day was its first, which was highlighted by the team’s longest play from scrimmage, a 43-yard deep shot from Nathan Payne to Nathaniel Garnett Jr. to the JCS 38-yard line. A personal foul penalty on the Golden Bulls’ Tynan Tucker took Wesleyan to the 17-yard line but six plays later the drive stalled at the five. Liam Depp scored the game’s first points on a 22-yard field goal with 10:49 to go in the first quarter.
Johnson C. Smith responded with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that was capped by a short Tyrell Jackson pass to Tyrek Williams who broke free for a 25-yard scamper to the end zone.
Wesleyan went three-and-out on its second possession and gave up the ball on a 44-yard punt from Aaron Vardell to the Golden Bulls’ 26. After a Jacob Newman return of 16 yards, Johnson C. Smith drove the field to the Wesleyan 29-yard line but turned the ball over when Bobcats’ linebacker Steven Taylor forced wide receiver Brevin Caldwell to fumble two yards in the backfield. Defensive back Brendon Baugh recovered the ball on the Wesleyan 31-yard line.
The Bobcats tried the middle of the field to take the game into the second quarter and gained one first down on two consecutive Payne runs of six and five yards, respectively. Vardell’s 46-yard punt from the Bobcat 34 opened up the quarter and Johnson C. Smith went the length of the field, 61-yards on six plays for a 14-3 advantage.
Another three-and-out for Wesleyan forced a third punt to the Golden Bulls’ 20-yard line and rusher Tim Newman Jr. did most of the work on Johnson C. Smith’s ensuing 80-yard drive that was capped by a Jackson pass to receiver Reggie Bryant for 11 yards and the touchdown to go up 21-3.
A Garrett Jr. 18-yard return placed Wesleyan at its own 23 but the drive was short-lived when Payne was picked off three plays later by Ja’qun Wilkins at the Bobcats’ 45-yard line.
A 20-yard completion from Jackson to Bryant put the ball on the Wesleyan 25 but a four-yard loss on third down by Bobcat defender Karnaire Floyd forced the Golden Bulls to attempt a 46-yard field goal by Christian Benitez which he missed with 1:48 left until halftime.
The Bobcats’ subsequent drive went 49 yards and was highlighted by Logan Landers’ completion of 33 yards to Garrett Jr. at the Johnson C. Smith 24-yard line. A sack and a seven-yard loss left the Bobcats with a 46-yard Depp field goal to take the game to the break, 21-6.
Johnson C. Smith started the second half with a 73-yard, 11-play drive that ended in a Jackson pass to receiver Dontae Baker for 14 yards and a 28-6 lead.
The repetitive three-and-out offensive habit continued to plague the Bobcats in the third quarter and its first drive ended with a 39-yard punt from the Wesleyan five-yard line that was returned by Newman for a Golden Bulls’ touchdown with 3:27 on the clock.
The Bobcats could do nothing with its next possession (three-and-out) and Vardell’s leg was again put into play for a 41-yarder to midfield. Johnson C. Smith took the game into the fourth quarter and a Jackson-to-Brevin connection to the end zone gave the Golden Bulls a 42-6 lead.
The endless cycle would not end and another Bobcats three-play drive gave the ball up to Johnson C. Smith which drove the ball 74 yards on 11 plays for the game’s final touchdown by running back Shyden McCullough.
The Bobcats go on the road next Saturday, Sept. 9, to play MEC opponent Notre Dame College. Kickoff is set for noon.