WINGATE, N.C. - Mars Hill College running back Shaikel Davis rushed 29 times for 163 yards and one touchdown, while quarterback Jon Richt completed 24-of-39 passes for 268 yards and three scores as the Lions withstood a Wingate University rally for a 37-31 South Atlantic Conference football win Saturday at Irwin Belk Stadium and John R. Martin Field. Mars Hill improves to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the SAC, while Wingate falls to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the SAC.
The Bulldogs trailed 37-10 to start the fourth quarter, but had a chance to take the lead deep in Mars Hill territory late in the fourth quarter. Mars Hill defensive back Michael Robinson intercepted a Wingate pass in the end zone with 38 seconds remaining on a first and 10 from the MHC 11 yard line.
Wingate quarterback Robbie Nallenweg completed 43-of-73 passes for 568 yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Chris Bowden caught 16 passes for 262 yards and two scores. Nallenweg breaks the SAC record for attempts and yards in a single game, while Bowden sets the league record for catches and yards in a game. He also became Wingate’s all-time career reception leader with 214.
Wide receiver Dimitri Holmes had 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown to lead the Mars Hill receivers. Logan Jensen had three receptions for 58 yards and two scores. Linebacker Sammy Siasia had 13 tackles and two pass break-ups to lead the MHC defense. Cornerback Marvin James added nine tackles and four break-ups, while Khalid Smith had nine tackles including two sacks.
Bryan Caffrey had seven receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, while Anthony Chalmers hauled in five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Jared Seate piled up 16 tackles to lead the Wingate defense, including three tackles for loss. Jakeem Polk had 12 tackles including two for loss, while Timmy Rogers registered 10 tackles, half a sack and an interception.
Cory McNulty blocked a Mars Hill punt, setting the Bulldogs up in Mars Hill territory early in the opening quarter. Nallenweg found Chalmers from 12 yards out to give Wingate a 7-0 lead five minutes into the contest.
Mars Hill had the answer, scoring the next 24 points of the game. Richt found Jensen from 14 yards out with 5:18 remaining. Richt capped a six-play, 80-yard drive by finding Holmes from 13 yards out, giving the Lions a 14-7 lead 44 seconds into the second quarter. A 23-yard touchdown run from Davis made it 21-7 midway through the quarter, while a 28-yard field goal pushed the MHC advantage to 24-7. Placekicker Matt Sierk trimmed the deficit to 14 with a 23-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.
Mars Hill outscored Wingate 14-0 in the third quarter to add to its lead. Richt hit Jensen for a 40-yard touchdown connection seven minutes into the third quarter to push the advantage to 21. A three-yard touchdown run from Jeremy Hughes gave the Lions a 37-10 lead with 6:23 remaining in the third. Mars Hill would hold the advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Wingate’s rally started when Nallenweg found Bowden on a 45-yard touchdown strike 27 seconds into the fourth quarter, capping a five-play 80-yard drive. The Bulldogs followed with a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive, capped by a seven-yard touchdown reception from Caffrey. Wingate trimmed the deficit to six when a nine-play, 85-yard scoring drive was capped on a strike from Nallenweg to Bowden in the end zone, making it 37-31 with 2:34 remaining.
Mars Hill recovered the ensuing onside kick, while Davis was stuffed on first down with 2:21 remaining. Richt went to the air on second down, and his pass was picked off by Rogers, who returned it 30 yards, into MHC territory at the 47. First down completions to Bowden and Josh Clawson kept the drive alive, while a nine-yard strike to Bowden made it first and 10 at the MHC 11 yard line. With 38 seconds remaining, Nallenweg’s pass over the middle was picked off in the end zone by Robinson, securing the Mars Hill victory.
Wingate piled up 568 yards of total offense on the afternoon, compared to Mars Hill’s 431. The Bulldogs turned it over four times, while Mars Hill turned it over only once. Wingate collected 10 more first downs than the Lions, while winning the time of possession battle by just over a minute.
Wingate returns to action next Saturday, traveling to Newberry for a 4 p.m. start. Mars Hill hosts Catawba Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in their annual Homecoming game.