TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

December 20, 2013

The Big One

Patriots set to play for NAIA national championship


TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

CORBIN — By Chris Parsons / Sports Editor

WILLIAMSBURG — The University of the Cumberlands football team is on the brink of making history after completing the 2013 football season with a perfect 13-0 regular season record and a No. 1 overall ranking.

John Bland’s squad will now turn its attention to Grand View University, which won its semifinal matchup against Morningside, 35-0. The two teams will square off in the NAIA National Championship game Saturday at Barron Stadium in Rome, Georgia at 4:30 p.m.

In case you’ve slept through the season, the Patriots’ top billing comes with good reason, considering the kind of numbers the team put up this season. Overall, Cumberlands is averaging 45 points and 478 yards of offense per game, 359 of which come via the ground game.

If the offensive numbers don’t impress you, the Patriots have only given up 19.6 ppg, good enough for an average win margin of 26 points.

Ironically for Cumberlands, the toughest test of the season was the most recent, when the team needed overtime to get past Carroll College in the national semifinal game.

Even though they gave up 493 yards of total offense in the 34-27 win, the bend-don’t-break effort of the Patriots came up huge. Cumberlands held the Saints to 0-for-12 on third down conversions. The defense also came up with key defensive sacks when they needed them, led by Weston Hazelhurst with 17 total tackles with the key sack that ended the game to seal the victory.

Offensively, the Patriots were led by freshman quarterback Adam Craig, who had 27 carries for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win over Carroll College.

During the win Craig also became the first player in school history to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season. He’s now has rushed for 1,157 yards and 24 touchdowns, while passing for 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns.

After the win, Bland talked about how fond he is of this year’s team and the opportunity to make history as the postseason continues.

“I just love this team. They are special guys and I look forward to coaching them every day,” Patriots coach John Bland said. “This is a huge win for our program and a program defining moment. Now, we just have one more game to go to reach our ultimate goal of winning a national championship.”

Senior linebacker and Mid-States Football Association Midwest Defensive Player of the Year Jason Gladfelder is the cornerstone of the Vikings’ defense. He leads the squad with 76 tackles (61 solo), 25.5 tackles-for-loss and 15 sacks, while ranking second on the team in interceptions with three.

Sophomore quarterback Derek Fulton is in his second full season as the starter for Grand View and has been the leader of the Vikings’ offense.

He enters Saturday ranked seventh in the NAIA in total offense with 3,784 yards and passing yards, with 3,151. Fulton has completed 231-of-360 pass attempts, including 30 touchdowns. He has thrown for more than 275 yards on six occasions this season, including a season-high 312-yard effort against Morningside in the semifinals on Dec. 7. He also leads the team in rushing with 633 yards on 153 carries. As a team, Grand View averages 37.5 points and 458.5 total yards per game, which puts it in the top 10 in the NAIA.

Saturday’s game is being broadcast on ESPN3, which is ESPN’s web channel. You must be a subscriber to a participating cable provider to have access to the game.