The Christopher Newport University football media guide makes no mention of most turnovers in a single game. Matt Kelchner, who's coached every one of the 90 games the school has played, is pretty sure his team's seven giveaways on Saturday is a record.
The booklet does list margin of defeat, and the Captains' 35-7 loss to North Carolina Wesleyan College on Saturday is its worst in a USA South Athletic Conference game. It's also the most the Captains have lost by at Pomoco Stadium, all the more painful coming before a homecoming crowd of almost 4,000.
But the most difficult aspect of the loss is that the contest was considered by some to be a virtual USA South championship game. Barring the unexpected, the Bishops (4-2, 3-0 conference) — with their toughest games seemingly behind them — are poised to succeed the Captains (3-3, 2-1) as USA South champs.
"It's huge," Wesleyan coach Mark Henninger said of the victory. "This doesn't win you the league, but, if you don't win this one you have very little chance of winning the league."Captains linebacker Trevor Wagner said, "In a championship game, homecoming setting, it's extremely frustrating. It's the most frustrating feeling you can ever feel."
The frustration for a CNU defender had to be double, because Wagner and the rest of the unit held its own for much of the afternoon. The offense, on the other hand, netted only 183 yards while losing the ball on three fumbles and four interceptions.
Wesleyan's defense was terrific, with six quarterback sacks among its 10 tackles for loss. But the Captains also hurt themselves ... often.
"Seven turnovers for crying out loud," Kelchner said.
"That's seven more times than the defense should be put out there. Besides seven turnovers, we had a couple of dropped passes that put us in a real hole."
The Bishops grabbed the lead with a 65-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter, but their other four touchdowns followed turnovers. Fine blocking accounted for Bryan Haywood's 33-yard run and Bo Jordan's 23-yard pass to Alonzo Washington: the plays which set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Denbigh High product Teron Bush that gave the Bishops a 7-0 lead.
Bishops' nose guard JC Carter forced a fumble by CNU quarterback Antonio Epps. Four plays after Ed Harrington's recovery, CNU cornerback Randell Bronte-Tinkew bit on a Jordan pump fake, allowing Orlando Webb to break open on a 22-yard touchdown reception that increased the Bishops' lead to 14-0 in the second quarter.
Turnover number five for the Captains came in the third quarter, when Christian Woelfel-Monsivais — CNU's third quarterback of the day — was picked off by DeAngelo Stewart at the CNU 10. Two plays later, Bush scored on a 6-yard run to make it 21-0.
The Captains got on the board early in the fourth quarter, when Tunde Ogun broke free down the left sideline on a 48-yard touchdown romp to pull the Captains within 21-7. But NCWC free safety Eric Williams stifled the Captains' comeback hopes with two late interceptions.
Four plays after the first, Jordan (323 passing yards) connected with Webb (119 receiving yards) on a 59-yard touchdown bomb, setting up his 19-yard TD pass to Haywood. Williams returned his interception of a Woelfel-Monsivais pass 40 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left to hand CNU its largest home and conference defeats.
"We didn't handle the football," Kelchner said.
"Maybe it was a carryover because we had some sloppy practice time this week with taking care of the football."
N.C. WESLEYAN 35, CNU 7
77714 — 35
0007 — 7
NCW—Bush 2 run (Quicker kick), 2:16
NCW—Webb 22 pass from Jordan (Quicker kick), 14:18
NCW—Bush 6 yard run (Quicker kick), 00:44
CNU—Ogun 48 run (Bourne kick), 14:24
NCW—Haywood 19 pass from Jordan (Quicker kick), 2:50
NCW—Williams 40 INT return (Quicker kick), 2:06
Rushing: N.C. Wesleyan, Haywood 15-69, Bush 14-43, Jordan 6-35. CNU, Ogun 27-131, Woelfel-Monsivais 9-2, Gaines 2-minus 1, Epps 5-minus 7.