Birmingham-Southern takes Wesley Cup from Huntingdon College with thrilling double overtime 35-29 victory

Andrew Shannon
Andrew Shannon

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern Panthers scored on the final play of the game to tie the score and then won it in the second overtime today to keep the Wesley Cup with a 35-29 thriller over the Huntingdon Hawks in Panther Stadium on the BSC campus.

After falling behind 21-2 early in the third quarter, BSC scored the next 19 points to pull in front 22-21 with less than four minutes to play in the contest.  The Hawks appeared to have the game won with a go-ahead touchdown with just 43 ticks on the clock.  But BSC would not quit on this day.  A desperation pass from junior quarterback Jimmy Stainback of Roswell, Ga., to junior wide receiver Aaron Sherrill of Madison as time expired tied the game, and then a nine yard scamper in the second overtime by senior tailback Shawn Morris won it for the Panthers.

Birmingham-Southern improved to 2-0 on the season; Huntingdon dropped to 1-1.

The Panthers appeared to be headed to the end zone on their first possession.  BSC took the opening kickoff and drove to the Huntingdon one yard line before being stopped on downs.  Huntingdon took over from there.  On its first offensive play of the game, junior running back Trevor Manuel was caught in the backfield for a safety by junior defensive lineman Robert Nelson Jr. of Midfield, and the Panthers led 2-0.

Huntingdon would be the first to find the end zone in the game.  With 57 seconds left in the first quarter, senior wide receiver Cody Pearcy ran it in from three yards out.  Junior place kicker Corey Robertson's extra point put the Hawks up 7-2.

The Hawks extended their lead to 14-2 with a little over three minutes remaining in the first half when Manuel scored from the one.  Robertson's point after touchdown was again good.

Birmingham-Southern would mount a final drive before halftime, but freshman kicker Bee Hall of Mobile was wide right on a field goal try and Huntingdon preserved its 14-2 lead.

It wouldn't take Huntingdon long to get on the scoreboard again as the second half got under way.  On the third play of the third quarter, junior quarterback Neal Posey hit Manuel with a short pass that he converted into a 77 yard touchdown.  Following Robertson's PAT, the Hawks led 21-2.

On its next possession, Birmingham-Southern got back in the game.  Huntingdon's Pearcy dropped a BSC punt and it was recovered by the Panthers' junior defensive back Jeffery Steele of Chalkville at the Hawk 26.  Five plays later, Stainback hit freshman wide receiver Sam Vermilyea of Monroeville on a 10-yard catch and run for the score.  Hall's extra point closed the score to 21-10 with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

After a Huntingdon punt, Birmingham-Southern took over again, this time at its own 42.  Six plays later Shawn Morris scampered in from the seven and just like that BSC pulled to within 21-15.  Hall's point after try was blocked.

The Birmingham-Southern defense continued to stiffen and took over at the Huntingdon 46 with 12:33 to go in the fourth quarter after sophomore defensive back Ethan Netherton partially blocked a Huntingdon punt.  Six plays later, Stainback called his own number and carried it in from the 10.  Hall's point after kick was good and the Panthers had pulled back in front, 22-21, with 11:08 to play in the game.

Following a missed BSC field goal with 3:32 remaining in the contest, Huntingdon would start from its own 20 yard line.  Ten plays later, a half back pass from Manuel to senior wide receiver Willie McDowell from 18 yards out would give the Hawks what would appear to be the game-winning score.  Posey then hit junior wide receiver Austin Worley for the two-point conversion and Huntingdon was in front 28-22.

But the Panthers would not quit.  With 43 seconds still to play, BSC drove to the Huntingdon 41.  On the last play of the game, Stainback hit junior wide receiver Sherrill with a desperation pass in the end zone to pull BSC to within a point at 29-28.  Hall's point after try with no time on the clock was good and the game was headed to overtime.

BSC's first overtime possession ended in an interception; Huntingdon's first possession resulted in a missed 41-yard field goal.

On its second possession overtime, BSC senior defensive tackle Sam Bratt of Rehobeth recovered a Huntingdon fumble to thwart the Hawk drive.  On Birmingham-Southern's second overtime possession, Morris scored from the nine to give the Panthers the thrilling 35-29 Wesley Cup victory.

BSC finished the day with 27 first downs to Huntingdon's 22.  The Panthers had 540 yards total offense to the Hawks 430 yards.

For the Panthers, Stainback was 20 of 31 passing for 233 yards and two touchdowns.  He added 120 yards rushing on 14 carries.  Morris added 113 yards rushing, along with 54 yards receiving on eight receptions.

Junior defensive back Andrew Shannon of Trussville paced the Panthers on defense with a school-record 19 total tackles, including two for loss of yards.

The Huntingdon offense was led by Manuel's 112 yards rushing and Posey's 290 yards through the air on 26 of 41 passing.  Defensively, the Hawks were led by senior free safety Keith Anthony's 12 total tackles and one interception.

This was the third meeting ever between the Panthers and the Hawks.  BSC now leads the series 2-1.  Birmingham-Southern also won the Wesley Cup battle last season 35-20 in Montgomery.

To mark the rivalry between the only two NCAA Division III institutions in the state of Alabama, the schools announced in 2009 that they would play annually for a trophy known as the Wesley Cup, named for John Wesley, who was the principal founder of the Methodist movement in the 18th century.  Both Birmingham-Southern and Huntingdon are affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

BSC will travel to Naples, Fla., next Saturday, Sept. 17, to take on Ava Maria University.  Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. central time.