No. 18 BSC powers past Ave Maria at home, 61-14

Issac Nichols (Photo by Cari Dean)
Issac Nichols (Photo by Cari Dean)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—In a record-breaking day at Panther Stadium, No. 18 Birmingham-Southern defeated Ave Maria University, 61-14, to move to 3-0 on the season. The Gyrenes, a second-year program out of Naples, Fla., fall to 0-1 on the season.

The Panthers broke the single-game scoring record (previously 54 points against Rhodes College on Nov. 5, 2011), the single-game touchdowns record with nine (previously eight against Rhodes on Nov. 5, 2011), and the single-game rushing yards record with 408 (previously 406 against Millsaps on Nov. 12, 2011).

Sophomore tailback Issac Nichols scored four of the Panthers' nine touchdowns; BSC would score six times before Ave Maria got on the board early in the third quarter.

The Panthers scored the first touchdown of the game at the 5:28 mark of the first quarter on a 34-yard run by junior Joseph Moultrie. BSC went up 14-0 less than two minutes later on a 23-yard pass from senior quarterback Jimmy Stainback to sophomore Sam Vermilyea.

On the next drive, sophomore defensive back Ty Keenum picked off a Gyrene pass and returned it 22 yards to the Ave Maria 18-yard line, ultimately leading to a five-yard run into the end zone by senior tailback Shawn Morris. Junior kicker Ryan Laughlin's third extra point was on the mark, putting BSC up 21-0 with 1:55 left in the first quarter.

Moultrie found the AMU end zone again at the 11:14 mark of the second quarter on a 10-yard run, putting BSC up 28-0.

With 3:06 left in the half, BSC scored again on a 98-yard drive culminating in a one-yard scamper by Nichols. The extra point was missed and the Panthers led 34-0.

Late in the third quarter senior safety Andrew Shannon picked off another Ave Maria pass, and two plays later Nichols scored again. The extra point was blocked and BSC took a 40-0 lead into halftime.

The Panthers racked up 352 yards in the first half – 296 of those on the ground – while Ave Maria had 114 (58 rushing). BSC also had 17 first downs to AMU's four.

The Gyrenes got on the board at the 12:40 mark of the third quarter on a 42-yard run by Rashad Kelley. The extra point by Troy Bray was good, cutting it to 40-7.

Nichols scored yet again – his third touchdown of the game – at the 10:08 mark of the third quarter on a 37-yard run. Tom Olson's extra point was good and the Panthers pulled ahead 47-7. Nichols would score again at the 6:39 mark, this time on a 61-yard pass from senior quarterback Tyson Beacham. Sophomore Bee Hall's kick was on the mark to give the Panthers a 54-7 lead.

Ave Maria found the end zone again at the 4:52 mark of the third quarter on a 53-yard pass from Drake Sunderland to Chris Fahey. Bray's extra point was good to bring the score to 54-14 in favor of Birmingham-Southern.

Neither team would score again until late in the fourth quarter when BSC sophomore tailback William Weller scored on a 26-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Timothy Howard. Hall connected on the extra point to give BSC a 61-14 lead for the victory.

The Panthers ended the day with 558 total offensive yards – 408 rushing and 150 passing. The Gyrenes had 379 total yards on 186 rushing and 193 passing. BSC recorded 27 first downs to AMU's 13 and ran 80 plays.

Four different quarterbacks saw action, led by Beacham who was 3-8 with one interception and 74 yards. Stainback was 5-7 for 50 yards, and Howard was 1-1 for 26 yards. Sophomore Conner Young also got into the game.

Nichols led with 147 yards rushing and 61 receiving yards. Sophomores Wesley Hansard and Matthew Weigel and senior Andrew Armour led the BSC defense with four tackles each. Twenty-eight different Panthers combined for 56 total tackles in the game. BSC also saw five different kickers enter the game, with Laughlin, Hall, and Olson kicking extra points, sophomore Cameron Haynes punting, and junior Grant Talbert handling the kick-offs.

For Ave Maria, Sunderland was 9-23 with one interception for 149 yards. Kelley and Matt Novak led with 60 yards rushing each, and Fahey and Ian Bacon led with 53 receiving yards apiece. Tanner Bowling led the Gyrene defense with 11 tackles, including two for-loss. Gage Hayes recorded AMU's interception.

BSC is on the road next Saturday, opening Southern Athletic Association play against Rhodes College in Memphis at 1 p.m.