Sunday, October 29, 2023

Wingate Pulls Off Last-Minute Stunner, Upsets No. 7 Lenoir-Rhyne

WINGATE – In a thrilling South Atlantic Conference football showdown, the Wingate University Bulldogs delivered a stunning upset, securing a 34-30 victory over the seventh-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne University Bears. The game, filled with high-stakes drama, ended with a jaw-dropping 75-yard touchdown pass with just 50 seconds left on the clock, catapulting Wingate to victory. 

The Bulldogs’ triumph improves their overall record to 6-3, with a 5-2 record in the South Atlantic Conference, while the highly-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne Bears now stand at 8-1 overall and 6-1 in league play. It’s worth noting that the Bears were one of just 11 remaining NCAA Division II teams without a loss leading up to this thrilling contest.

Wingate receiver Evan McCray goes 75 yards for the win
Photo Credit: Anna Torras (Wingate Athletics)

How it Happened:

In the first quarter, Wingate initiated the scoring with a 52-yard, 12-play drive that culminated in a touchdown pass from Brooks Bentley to Matt Flanders. Lenoir-Rhyne responded with an 80-yard drive, ending with a touchdown pass from Jalen Ferguson to John Goodwin.

The second quarter saw Wingate regain the lead with a field goal, but Lenoir-Rhyne quickly answered with another touchdown pass from Ferguson to Malik Simmons. Wingate surged ahead again with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Bentley to Tremel Jones.

In the third quarter, Wingate took control, embarking on a 71-yard drive, resulting in a field goal. Lenoir-Rhyne swiftly replied with a 63-yard rushing touchdown by Dwayne McGee.

The final quarter was a rollercoaster of emotions, with both teams exchanging leads. Lenoir-Rhyne managed a field goal to go up by three points, but Wingate responded with a touchdown run by Bentley. Lenoir-Rhyne regained the lead with a touchdown pass from Ferguson to Songa Yates with just over a minute remaining. However, Wingate sealed the win with a sensational 75-yard touchdown pass from Bentley to McCray.

Key Stats:

  • Lenoir-Rhyne amassed 262 passing yards and 221 rushing yards for a total of 483 yards.
  • Wingate countered with 335 passing yards and 104 rushing yards, resulting in a total of 439 offensive yards.
  • Although the Bears held a slight advantage in first downs with 24 compared to Wingate’s 21, they had the game’s only turnover, an interception on a desperation play at the end.
  • Wingate controlled the clock, maintaining possession for over 32 minutes of game time.
  • Wingate succeeded on seven of 13 third-down conversions, while Lenoir-Rhyne managed just one successful third-down conversion out of nine attempts.

Key contributors for the Bulldogs included Brooks Bentley, who completed 24 of 37 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to contributing 37 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. Evan McCray was instrumental with four receptions for 97 yards, including the game-winning 75-yard touchdown. Tremel Jones and Carlos Estronza also made significant receiving contributions.

On the defensive side, Tre Morrison and Jaheim Mullen led the way with 10 tackles each, while Dontorian Best added nine tackles. Dequan Mosley made a crucial interception to seal the win for Wingate, while Darius Randolph contributed with a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry.

Special teams played a role in the victory, with Caleb Bonesteel hitting all four PATs and adding field goals of 21 and 39 yards.

The victory signifies Wingate’s second consecutive win against Lenoir-Rhyne and a memorable upset of the seventh-ranked team. The game was characterized by dramatic twists and turns, showcasing the competitive spirit of both teams.

Looking ahead, Wingate will face Newberry in their next matchup on the road, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday. Lenoir-Rhyne, on the other hand, will regroup and prepare for their next game on Senior Day, where they will host Catawba at 2 p.m.