Rivers Big Day Not Enough for Muskies, Fall 44-34
Larry Rivers (Jr.-Dearborn Heights, Mich.) posted one of the biggest rushing performances in school history but the Lakeland University football team was unable to duplicate an explosive first half and Carroll University rallied for a 44-34 win in both teams’ football season opener Saturday at Taylor Field.
The Muskies built an 11-point halftime lead but were outscored by the Pioneers 28-7 in the final 30 minutes, including a pair of backbreaking big plays late. Carroll rallied late to defeat Lakeland for the second straight year and won for the seventh time in the schools’ 10 straight years meeting to kick off their respective seasons.
Rivers carried 26 times for a carrer-high 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and also caught two passes for 34 yards and another score. His rushing total was the fourth most in a game in Lakeland history, not far from the record of 308 yards set by Dezmon Eddie (Sr.-Alexandria, La.) Nov. 4, 2017 against Concordia University Chicago.
Rivers gained 166 yards on just 13 carries in the first half alone, and he appeared to have a real shot at Eddie’s single-game record after pushing his total to 260 near the end of the third quarter. That included 66 yards on a 7-play, 75-yard drive near the end of the quarter that finished with Rivers taking off on 4th-and-4 in Carroll territory and racing 24 yards for a touchdown, giving the Muskies back the lead at 34-30 after the extra point by Andrew Colley (So.-Gadsden, Ala.).
Explosive plays worked for the Muskies and went against them just the same, though, in a contest that had plenty of fireworks both ways. The Pioneers responded on their very next play from scrimmage after a short kickoff as Isaac Allen broke free for a 48-yard touchdown to put Carroll back ahead 37-34 with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
Lakeland piled up 397 yards of offense in the first half alone in building a 27-16 halftime lead, but was limited to 156 yards in the second half, with nearly half coming on their one touchdown drive. The Muskies gained a total of 45 yards on their four fourth quarter possessions, getting into Carroll territory on just one of the four.
The Muskies still had a golden opportunity after an interception and subsequent 19-yard return by Rayshion Brumfield (So.-Ponchatoula, La.) gave them the ball back at the Carroll 43 with 8:42 left in the game. The drive ended four players later, though, when Nunnery’s rush on 4th-and-7 ended a yard short after a disputed mark of the ball when it appeared he had leaned forward for the first down.
The Pioneers delivered a dagger just three plays later. On a third down play, quarterback Michael Johnson appeared set to go down for a sack but wriggled free, scrambled and then lobbed a pass for Tyler Elmer on the right side. Elmer caught the pass in traffic and took off down the sideline, 61 yards in all for the score and giving Carroll the 44-34 lead.
Lakeland had plenty of reason to feel good in the first half, when it never trailed and answered every Pioneers score early on in taking an 11-point halftime lead. The Muskies kicked off but McNemon Vincent (Jr.-Vernon Hills, Ill.) sacked Johnson on the first offensive play of the game and then recovered a fumble by Isaac Allen on the second to give Lakeland the ball deep in Carroll territory.
Charl’Tez Nunnery (Jr.-Liberty, Miss.) ran it in from two yards out to get Lakeland on the board, and after a Carroll field goal the Muskies struck again as Rivers broke free for a 66-yard touchdown run and a 13-3 lead. The Pioneers responded late in the quarter with a touchdown, but Lakeland came right back going five plays and 84 yards in just 1:33, with Nunnery going deep over the top to Brice Kensey (Jr.-New Orleans, La.) for a 43-yard score. Carroll came back with a short touchdown plunge by Allen to finish a quick drive that included passes from Johnson to David Meza for 31 and 48 yards, but the Muskies answered again with Nunnery lofting a pretty pass to to Rivers out of the backfield for a 21-yard touchdown.
Nunnery finished completing 10 of 20 passes for 211 yards and two scores, with Kensey catching four passes for 122 yards. Eddie also rushed 10 times for 53 yards and caught three passes for 52. Lakeland finished with 553 yards of offense and an average of 8.3 yards per play, but also punted or saw a drive end on downs on six of its eight second half drives, with a seventh drive ending as time ran out after one play.
Shazon Crutcher (Jr.-Lansing, Mich.) led the defense with nine tackles, Vincent totaled six tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and Sam Bartlett (Sr.-Racine, Wis.) added six tackles including three TFL.
Johnson completed 17 of 27 passes for 296 yards and four touchdowns for Carroll, with Alex Kujawa catching eight passes for 112 yards and three scores. Allen also rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Though the Pioneers were outgained 553-454, they also posted a 23-16 advantage in first downs and held possession for more than 33 minutes.
Lakeland is idle next week before returning to play Saturday, Sept. 21 when it travels to face Kalamazoo (Mich.) College for a noon Central time kickoff in Kalamazoo.
Muskies by the numbers:
8.3 – Average yards per play for Lakeland
10 – Number of tackles for loss by the Muskies defense, including three sacks
27 – First half points for Lakeland
28 – Second half points for Carroll
32 -Yards Larry Rivers fell short of the Lakeland single-game rushing record by, with his total of 276 the fourth-most in a game in school history
33:20 – Time of possession for Carroll, more than 6 1/2 minutes more than Lakeland
1,658 – Career rushing yards for Rivers
1,931 – Career rushing yards for Dezmon Eddie, who needs 69 yards to become the seventh 2,000-yard rusher in school history
By Lakeland Football Staff
Featured Image Courtesy of Lakeland Football