Braves fall just short at Nick Hyder Classic

Rome, Ga. – September 1, 2005 – In front of a regional television audience Thursday night at the Nick Hyder Classic in Rome, the West Georgia Braves nearly pulled off the upset of the year. For 45 minutes of the contest, West Georgia played neck-and-neck with the #7 Carson Newman Eagles. But in the end, a two-yard touchdown run from Eagle quarterback Joey King proved to be the game winner as the Braves fell 14-10.

West Georgia came out on fire defensively, shutting down the powerful Carson-Newman rushing attack for all but six minutes of the game. Led by linebackers John Perkins, Brandon Jamison and Kelvin Morris, the Braves held CNU to just 92 total yards in the first half alone.

But the Eagles’ defense was just as potent, forcing a battle of the punters as West Georgia’s offense manaaged just 87 yards in the first half. But it was the Braves’ offense that broke through first with just 14 seconds gone in the fourth quarter.

The Braves monted a drive that started in Carson-Newman territory with just under six minutes left in the third quarter. Junior quarterback Keats Baldwin was impressive on the drive, going 4-of-9 for 45 yards on the drive. On 3rd-and-goal from the CN eight, Baldwin faded back and hit Jaybriel Holbrook on a slant, but the ball slipped out of the junior receiver’s hands, forcing the Braves to settle for a field goal.

On the ensuing possession, the UWG defense held again, forcing the Eagles to punt the ball with just over 12 minutes left in the contest. On the second play following the punt, Baldwin hit Javari Taylor on a screen pass. Taylor was hit at the line of scrimmage and the ball popped free. A CNU defender picked up the ball and scampered 28 yards for a Carson-Newman touchdown.

With a test of intestinal fortitude, the Braves’ offense retook the field at the 20 after the kickoff. West Georgia’s offense hopped on the back of junior running back Abe Felix, who rushed for over 60 yards on the drive, including a 42-yard rumble for a touchdown. After the extra-point, the Braves led 10-7 with just 7:58 left before the celebration could begin.

But the Carson-Newman offense blew back down the field, using a strong option attack to force their way down to the West Georgia two yard line before King plunged in for a 14-10 Eagle lead.

But Baldwin and the UWG offense weren’t done yet.

On first down, Felix ripped off a 20-yard run right up the gut, followed by a seven-yard pass to Holbrook. Three plays later, facing a 4th-and-6 from the CNU 45, Baldwin hit Channing Price for a 12-yard gain and new life for the Braves. But the clock was ticking, showing just 1:26 left in the contest.

On first down, Baldwin found Felix in the flat, followed by an incomplete pass. On 3rd-and-5, Baldwin found an opening and took off, running for 12 yards before being brought down with just 29 ticks left on the clock.

Three plays later, with 4.8 seconds left, Baldwin and the Braves had their last chance. The Flowood, MS native lofted the ball to the right corner of the end-zone, looking for junior transfer Emory Jones. But the pass sailed high and fell to the turf as time expired, giving the Eagles the win.

The Braves next action comes next Saturday as the Gulf South Conference schedule opens with Harding at 7 p.m.

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