Panthers hold off Berry to win at home, 23-17

Joe Moultrie (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)
Joe Moultrie (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Birmingham-Southern returned home Saturday and picked up a Southern Athletic Association victory against Berry College, 23-17, on Battle Field at Panther Stadium.

The Panthers move to 3-5 overall and 3-1 in the SAA, while the Vikings fall to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in league action. With the win, BSC now stands at second in the SAA standings behind Centre (7-0, 3-0 SAA).

After Berry missed a 22-yard field goal on the first drive of the game, BSC scored the first two touchdowns of the game, both courtesy of senior tailback Joe Moultrie. The first was a five-yard dash into the end zone at the 8:15 mark of the first quarter, and the second was a 16-yard run 10 minutes later, putting the Panthers up 13-0 after the extra-point attempt on the second touchdown was blocked by the Vikings.

Later in the second quarter, Berry took advantage of one of BSC's miscues, recovering a fumble and then scoring on the next play, a five-yard pass from Dale Jackson to Trey Ciresi. The extra point was good to cut it to 13-7 with 9:23 remaining.

BSC found the end zone again, however, on the next drive as freshman quarterback Mickey Courtney found sophomore Colby Crossfield on a 40-yard pass. Junior Hagen Mancuso's kick was good to put BSC up 20-7 with 4:48 left in the half.

The Vikings had one last chance to score before halftime, driving to the BSC 15-yard line where Campbell Harrison missed another field goal, this time a 32-yard attempt.

Berry was able to cut the lead to 20-14 at the 9:25 mark of the third quarter on a 10-yard pass from Jackson to Josh Bullock, but the Panthers responded on the next drive again as Mancuso nailed a 31-yard field goal to increase the lead to 23-14 with 6:15 left in the quarter.

The Vikings scored the final points of the game late in the fourth quarter, as Mitchell Blanchard made a 34-yard field goal to cut it to 23-17 with 3:46 left to play. Berry kept things interesting, though, getting the ball back with 1:36 left and driving to the BSC 46-yard line before turning it over on downs with just under a minute left. The Panthers couldn't make any headway, either, staying at mid-field before punting with 21 seconds left, giving the Vikings one last chance. The game ended, however, when Jackon's pass was intercepted by senior Devante Smith with 16 seconds left.

Courtney was 14-24 for 208 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Moultrie had 87 yards on 25 carries and two scores, and led with 138 all-purpose yards. Senior Sam Vermilyea led the receivers with 69 yards on seven catches. Mancuso made seven punts, averaging 37.7 yards with a long punt of 71 yards, a new BSC record.

Seniors Austin Hansard and LaPrintence Gunn led the defense with five tackles each, all unassisted. Gunn, Smith, and senior Ty Keenum all had interceptions as well, and senior Connor Shannon had two sacks for 20 yards.

For Berry, Jackson was 24-55 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

BSC racked up 423 yards of total offense, compared to Berry's 285. Both teams struggled with turnovers, with BSC committing three and the Vikings committing four.

The Panthers travel to face Rhodes College in Memphis next Saturday, Nov. 1, in a 1 p.m. kick-off.