FERRUM — Reigning Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) champion and preseason title favorite Randolph-Macon College didn’t need a fourth-quarter rally Saturday to claim its first victory over Ferrum College in six tries.
The Yellow Jackets scored the game’s first 17 points and tallied 14 more after intermission for a 31-10 triumph over the Panthers in Ferrum’s 2019 ODAC football opener at W.B. Adams Stadium.
The series began in 1985 when the Panthers joined the NCAA Division III ranks. Last year’s contest. the first ODAC encounter between the two rivals, resurrected a series that had been dormant since the early 1990s.
Randolph-Macon (2-0 in the ODAC, 3-1 overall) is a season removed from winning nine games and reaching the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
But Saturday’s game marked the first time that the Yellow Jackets, a winner of three straight games, had led a contest from wire-to-wire this season. They needed fourth-quarter comebacks to thwart Averett University and Emory & Henry College in their conference opener last week.
Ferrum has played two ODAC openers, both at Adams Stadium, and it has lost both.
Ironically, both games were delayed for multiple hours because of weather — Saturday’s contest was stopped for two hours and five minutes because of lightning as both teams were sent to their locker rooms by the game’s officials. Play was halted at 9:35 of the third period.
Ferrum (0-1 in the ODAC, 1-2 overall) suffered its second straight loss.
After routing Greensboro (North Carolina) College, 55-7, in its season opener, Ferrum has surrendered 35 and 31 points in setbacks to Averett and Randolph-Macon and has only scored 22 points in those outings — 12 against the Cougars and 10 Saturday.
This season marks the seventh straight year (2013-2019) that Ferrum has lost consecutive games at some point during the campaign.
Titus Jones, a sophomore, made his first start at quarterback in place of senior Zack Clifford, who sustained an injury in the Averett game.
Clifford had made 21 consecutive starts beginning with Ferrum’s 40-20 non-conference win over the Apprentice School at Adams Stadium in the second week of the 2017 season. Clifford has made his collegiate debut the week before in relief of starter Tyler English in a non-conference road win over Emory & Henry.
English’s injury ended his season and he received a medical redshirt year. He is a junior this year and has moved to receiver.
Jones completed 8 of 21 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown — a second-stanza scoring strike to Brian Mann that ended the Yellow Jackets’ 17-point scoring surge.
Kicker Brad Green provided the Panthers with their final points when he booted his seventh field goal of the season — a kick the split the uprights from 34 yards with 12:27 remaining. The field goal enabled the Panthers to cut the deficit to 13 points, 23-10.
Mann rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries. He has been held to fewer than 100 rushing yards in each of Ferrum’s last two games and in four of its last five games dating to last season. He is 84 yards shy of 5,000 for his career.
Ferrum’s Rah’Quan Payne recorded 40 receiving yards.
Colin Booker gave the Yellow Jackets their initial lead, 3-0, when he converted a 24-yard field goal at 7:54 of the first quarter. The visitors raised the spread to 10-0 when Sam Turner caught a TD pass from quarterback Presley Egbers.
The one-play scoring march was set up by Randolph-Macon’s recovery of a Mann fumble at Ferrum’s 16 yard line.
Randolph-Macon finished its scoring surge when Jordan Foster dashed 45 yards down the left sideline to end zone in the second stanza.
Foster found the end zone again, this time from two yards, with 55 seconds left in the third period to make the count 23-7.
In the final frame, Egbers, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 175 yards, hit Trey Owens with a five-yard TD toss to complete the scoring.
Tre Frederick, the ODAC’s career leading rusher, totaled 77 yards on 26 totes and Tim Hanratty registered 62 receiving yards.
Billy Higgins anchored Ferrum’s defense with 18 tackles, nine of which were solo stops, while Calvin Whitehead paced Randolph-Macon’s defense with 11 tackles.
The Yellow Jackets accumulated 366 offensive yards and their total was almost evenly distributed: 182 rushing, 184 passing. The Panthers were held to 224 offensive yards: 137 rushing, 87 passing.
Each team committed two turnovers.
At game’s end, Randolph-Macon held an advantage of almost 11 1/2 minutes in time of possession: 35:44 to 24:16.
The loss ends a two-game Ferrum home stand. The Panthers will have a second, two-game home stand in late October/early November.
The Panthers return to action Saturday against conference foe Washington and Lee University. Kickoff in Lexington is 4 p.m.
The two teams faced off in football for the first time last year at Adams Stadium and the Generals came away with a 38-35 victory courtesy of a made field goal on the game’s final play.