BSC defense comes up big in 35-34 thriller against Rhodes

BSC blocks the game-winning field goal by Rhodes (photo by Cari Dean)
BSC blocks the game-winning field goal by Rhodes (photo by Cari Dean)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Birmingham-Southern blocked a 45-yard field goal as the clock wound down to hang on and defeat Rhodes College, 35-34, Saturday afternoon for Homecoming and Senior Day 2013.

The Panthers move to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Southern Athletic Association, while Rhodes falls to 6-2 overall and 3-1 with its first conference loss.

BSC scored twice in the first quarter, first on an 11-yard pass from senior quarterback Tyson Beacham to junior Sam Vermilyea. The second touchdown came on a fumble recovery by junior Austin Hansard, which he returned 20 yards to the end zone. Both extra points by senior Ryan Laughlin were good to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

Rhodes got on the board early in the second quarter on a 41-yard run by Mitch DeKozan, but BSC extended the lead to 21-7 at the 11:33 mark on a 25-yard pass from Beacham to freshman Sam Roberts.

The Lynx responded with three straight touchdowns, including a 93-yard interception return by Stanton Brown, and took a 28-21 lead into the halftime break.

The third quarter was scoreless for both teams, and the Panthers tied it up at the 11:20 mark of the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run by junior Issac Nichols. BSC pulled ahead 35-28 with 4:53 left in the game when senior Tyler Johnson caught an 81-yard pass from Beacham. Rhodes found the end zone one last time with 1:13 left in the game, and went for the two-point conversion to pull ahead. Instead, the pass was batted down by junior Ty Keenum to preserve the BSC lead.

The Panthers weren't able to make it far on their next drive, and punted to give Rhodes the ball with 46 seconds remaining. The Lynx quickly advanced down the field with several pass completions to the BSC 28-yard line, where they attempted a 45-yard field goal. The Panther defense came up big again, as junior Paden Gaines blocked the kick as the clock wound down to clinch the one-point BSC victory.

Beacham was 20-29 with three touchdowns and one interception for 266 yards. Freshman Evan Kasian led with 65 yards rushing, and junior Michael Cowan led with 76 receiving yards. Johnson led with 114 all-purpose yards, and Laughlin was 7-7 on extra points.

Hansard led the defense with 10 tackles (five unassisted), and Gaines had two sacks and two quarterback hurries.

Rhodes quarterback Blake Box was 32-43 with 326 yards and two touchdowns, while Dane Wilson led with 65 yards rushing and Mike Edel led with 71 receiving yards. Justin Toliver and Michael Shield led the defense with eight tackles apiece, and Spencer Smith led with three tackles-for-loss.

The Panthers' 12 seniors were honored during pregame festivities. The 2013 senior class includes: Tyson Beacham (Athens, Ga.), Cameron Budzius (Calhoun, Ga.), Matt Hansard (Gainesville, Ga.), Taylor Hawkins (Albertville, Ala.), Jarrett Hubbard (Covington, Ga.), Tyler Johnson (Milton, Fla.), Chad King (Columbiana, Ala.), Ryan Laughlin (Fort Payne, Ala.), Joe Moultrie (Birmingham, Ala.), Anderson Porter (Atlanta, Ga.), Grant Talbert (Limestone County, Ala.), and Willie Terrell, Jr. (Birmingham, Ala.).

BSC is idle next weekend before wrapping up the season on the road against Centre on Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern in Danville, Ky.