GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- West Alabama piled up 465 yards of total offense and scored 40 unanswered points in a 47-14 victory over Tusculum University Saturday night at Pioneer Field.
The 20th-ranked Tigers (2-0) received a total of 368 passing yards from quarterback Jack McDaniels and Jacob Murphree, with receiver Christian Saulsberry catching four passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. McDaniels was 13-for-24 for 216 yards and three scores, while Murphree completed 8-for-10 for 152 yards and one touchdown and also ran for a score in the second quarter.
The Pioneers (0-2) also split time at quarterback, with starter Bryce Moore completing 11 passes in 20 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown and Joaquin Collazo going 8-for-19 for 80 yards along with a rushing touchdown in the final minute. As a team, Tusculum totaled just 250 yards of offense despite controlling the ball for 34:40 compared to 25:20 for West Alabama.
Both teams went three-and-out on their first possessions, but West Alabama's special teams came through as Tyler Butler blocked Andrew Cantrell's punt attempt and Trevonte Carter recovered at the Pioneer 7. On the next play, Derrick Underwood scored to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 12:45 left in the first quarter.
The Pioneers answered with an 11-play, 52-yard drive that was aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Tigers on what would have been a stop by the defense on third-and-5. Six plays later, Moore hooked up with Chavis Williams for a six-yard touchdown pass and Alan Andrzejewski drilled the extra point to knot the score at 7-7 with 8:08 to go in the opening quarter.
A pair of pass interference penalties against the Pioneers, the second of which negated a Dee Alford interception, helped the Tigers move 76 yards in six plays and take the lead on a 29-yard pass from McDaniels to Saulsberry with 4:58 left in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, the Pioneers were handed excellent field position due to a pair of personal fouls called against the Tigers during a punt return by Alford. The Tigers then committed two more personal fouls as the Pioneers marched to first and goal at the Tiger 7 in the final minute of the first quarter. Three running plays left the Pioneers at the three-yard line, but a 20-yard field goal was off-target as West Alabama retained its 14-7 advantage.
The Tigers then drove 80 yards in seven plays, keyed by a 60-yard completion from Murphree to Saulsberry on third-and-9. Murphree then sneaked across from a yard out for a 21-7 West Alabama lead with 12:11 to go in the second quarter.
Tusculum's next drive did not net a first down, and West Alabama took over at its 35. Back-to-back completions from McDaniels to Tyriq Martin pushed the Tigers into Tusculum territory, but the Pioneers' Jackson Cauthen intercepted McDaniels at the Tusculum 35. Moore drove the Pioneers downfield with five consecutive completions to five different receivers, but on fourth-and-1 at the West Alabama 12 it was the Tigers' Corey Proctor who brought down Jordon Shippy in the backfield for a five-yard loss.
After the stop on downs, the Tigers moved 83 yards in nine plays as McDaniels connected with Jurmorris McMillon for 25 yards and Deyon Hill for 39 yards to set up the Tigers in the red zone. A false start penalty pushed the Tigers off the goal line, but McDaniels hooked up with Saulsberry from six yards for a 28-7 lead with 26 seconds to go in the half.
A miscue on the second-half kickoff left Tusculum at its one-yard line to start the third quarter, and Shippy was hauled down in the end zone by Jordan Jones and Dorsett Johnson for a a safety and a 30-7 Tigers lead just nine seconds into the quarter. A short punt would then put the Tigers into Pioneer territory, and Tre Jackson booted a 29-yard field goal to extend the West Alabama lead to 33-7 with 10:39 to go in the quarter.
Butler's second blocked punt of the day on Tusculum's next drive gave West Alabama the ball back at the Pioneer 34, and two plays later McDaniels and Martin connected from 32 yards away to boost the West Alabama lead to 40-7 with 8:32 left in the third. The Tigers would look for more later in the quarter, but the Pioneers' David Johnson picked off McDaniels on a long pass down the sideline for Tusculum's second interception of the evening.
West Alabama tacked on another touchdown in the fourth quarter as Murphree hit a wide-open Jerrick Orr down the sideline and he sprinted 58 yards for a touchdown to extend the Tigers' lead to 47-7 with 8:04 to play. Tusculum would then embark on its longest drive of the night, marching 85 yards in 16 plays over 7:00 which included a 24-yard completion from Collazo to Desmond Arthur on fourth-and-8 and a 12-yard scramble by Moore on fourth-and-10. Collazo would then cap the drive with a one-yard sneak with 59 seconds left and Eli Shepherd booted the extra point to set the final score.
Neither team reached 100 yards in rushing, as Demetrius Battle paced West Alabama with 39 yards on seven carries in the second half and Moore had a team-high 31 yards on seven runs for the Pioneers. Shippy had 16 carries for 26 yards for Tusculum, while Underwood had 10 rushing attempts for 34 yards and a score for the Tigers.
Martin finished with six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers, who had nine different players record a reception and five having at least one catch of 25 yards or more. For Tusculum, Ajay Belanger was the top receiver with six catches for 56 yards while Shippy had four receptions for 21 yards out of the backfield.
Ivan Hogans led the Tusculum defense with 10 tackles and Cauthen added nine. Alford had two pass breakups and made six tackles, and Ty'Korian Brown broke up three passes and made four stops. For West Alabama, Jordan Graddy had eight tackles (six solo) and Michael Anderson, Jones and Jeremiah Boyd each had six stops.
Tusculum will open its South Atlantic Conference schedule on the road next Saturday, Sept. 21 when the Pioneers visit Limestone to face the Saints at 1 p.m. in Gaffney, South Carolina.