Union upsets Cumberland in thrilling, historic night game.

Domonique Jefferson finds the end zone on a 26 yard pass from Quarterback Chandler Whittlesey to give Union College an early 7-0 lead over The University of the Cumberlands on Saturday night. Photo by Dennis Mills.
Union College cheerleader Kirsten Smith cheers on the Bulldogs Saturday night. Union handed The University of the Cumberlands and upset loss 28-27 in the first night game at Union since 1931. Photo by Dennis Mills

The Union College football team christened the lights at Williamson Stadium at Burch/Nau Field with a 28-27 upset victory over No. 11 University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) on Saturday in Mid-South Conference East play.

Playing its first home night game since Sept. 25, 1931, the Bulldogs (1-2 overall, 1-0 MSC East) came up big late in the game to register the win and bring home the Brass Lantern, the traveling trophy for the Union-Cumberlands rivalry.

“It’s a huge win for our program. It’s a class win, and it’s a win with meaning against a very worthy opponent,” said Union head coach Zak Willis, who is in his first season at the helm. “I thought it was one of the cleanest rivalry games that I’ve ever seen. I give Cumberlands all the credit because their kids were nothing but class after the game. (Cumberlands) Coach (Matt) Rhymer, I have all the respect in the world for them. It’s too bad both teams couldn’t win, but I’m glad we did.”

This was Union’s first win over Cumberlands since 2011.

Tied at 14-all at the half and going scoreless in the third, Union took a 20-14 lead when quarterback Chandler Whittlesey kept the ball on a short 2-yard run but fumbled just prior to the goal line. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the ball bounced right into the arms of offensive lineman Andy Flynn for the touchdown. The PAT was no good, leaving it a six-point game with 12:41 to play.

On the ensuing drive, Cumberlands needed only six plays to cover 49 yards in finding the end zone. Randy Maynard scored his second touchdown of the day with a 3-yard plunge. After the PAT, the Patriots led 21-20 with 10:15 remaining.

Late in the game, Cumberlands looked to be on its way to scoring some crucial insurance points. Starting on its own 27, Cumberlands moved the ball to the Union 30 thanks to a 23-yard run by Maynard and 20-yard run by Ricardo Lyons. But on the next play, Tucker Lewis forced a Lyons fumble, and Union took over on its own 28.

Whittlesey hit LaVance Anderson for a 22-yard pass and followed it with a 15-yard run to move the ball to the Patriot 35. After an incomplete pass, Anderson busted through the Cumberlands defense for a 35-yard touchdown run. Pulling a play out of the Florida Gators’ playbook, Whittlesey perfectly executed the jump pass on the 2-point conversion, hooking up with Kevin Coney to make it 28-21 with 3:05 left.

Not ready to be counted out, Cumberlands quickly moved the ball down to the Union 6 and scored on a Lyons 6-yard push with 1:18 remaining. Down one, the Patriots called a timeout to set up a 2-point conversion. Cumberlands attempted to run a sweep to the left with D.J. Rozier, but Union’s D.J. Smith sniffed out the play and tackled him a 5 yards shy of the goal line, keeping the score 28-27 in Union’s favor.

The Bulldogs recovered the onside kick and immediately went into the victory formation.

Whittlesey had a big day, going 16-of-34 passing for 249 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 39 yards and another score. Anderson galloped 86 yards on 12 carries, while Diquan Jefferson caught six passes for 85 yards. Domonique Jefferson hauled in five passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.