It's always a pleasant autumn Saturday on the football field when your defense outscores the opponent in its entirety.
Georgetown College returned three interceptions for touchdowns — an accomplishment coach Bill Cronin said he couldn't recall in his quarter century at the helm — and pummeled University of Pikeville, 52-14, in a battle of Mid-South Conference Bluegrass Division unbeaten rivals at Toyota Stadium.
Junior cornerback Zyan Bethel tallied two of the pick-sixes, covering 24 yards in the first quarter and 70 in the fourth. Senior defensive lineman Marcus Omosule added one for the big guys, winning his 64-yard foot race to apply the exclamation point with 6:02 remaining.
“I saw the ball, I saw green, and I had to go get it. It was a long run, let me tell you,” Omosule said with a wide smile. “I had one last year against Thomas More that was only about 20 yards. This was like a mile.”
No. 9 Georgetown is 4-0 for the first time since 2017 while averaging 46.5 points per game. The Tigers also exorcised the demons of back-to-back home losses to Pikeville (2-1) in 2016 and 2019.
Brandon Burgess threw first-half touchdowns to Jake Johnson, Aaron Maggard and Dylan Hughes, staking the Tigers to a seemingly insurmountable 31-0 halftime lead.
Bethel's second run-back stopped a drive that could have brought the Bears within 10 points and made a game of it.
“We just try to stay locked in, keep the foot on the gas and do what we've got to do to keep them off the board,” Bethel said.
Isaiah Cobb sandwiched a fourth-quarter touchdown plunge between the home runs by Bethel and Omosule.
His 1-yard rush immediately followed another bomb from Burgess (15-for-34, 269 yards) to Hughes (four receptions, 140 yards).
“They're a dangerous football team. They've got some athletes, as you could see in the third quarter. You've got to be on top of your game for them,” Cronin said. “Once you make some plays and change the momentum of the game, it's hard to regain it. I thought our guys hung in there OK. We've just got to be a little more disciplined and play a little bit better in the third quarter.”
GC forced five Pikeville turnovers in all.
Rob Sheffield also picked off a pass in the prolific first half. Deeek Wellman's recovery of a muffed punt return after the Tigers went three-and-out on their first series led immediately to Johnson's 25-yard TD catch.
“That was fun,” Cronin said. “It was good to see some of our defensive guys make those kind plays, and if you noticed, we could have had a few more, at least interceptions.”
Bethel scampered down the Pikeville sideline on both his journeys to the end zone after making it look like he could have been Lee Kirkland's intended receiver.
His opening act and one of Joshua Edwards' seven extra points on the day made it 14-0 with 8:34 left in the first quarter.
“I just read the quarterback's eyes. He was locked on the receiver, so I jumped it and I just went for six,” Bethel said. “We just watched a lot of film. Coach House (defensive coordinator Shan Housekeeper) gets us prepared for games. We've just got to execute, and this is what we do.”
GC benefited from a bizarre personal foul when Pikeville's punter turned around after a booting from his own end zone and hurled choice words at Tiger supporters.
That led to Maggard's 10-yard scoring snag from Burgess in the final minute of the opening period. Zach Babb's third-down conversion on a middle screen helped set it up.
In the second quarter, Burgess dropped a 71-yard dime to a wide-open Hughes, and Edwards atoned for an earlier miss and a block with a 41-yard field goal.
“(Burgess) was up and down today a little bit. I didn't think he did a great job with some of his reads. But he's a competitor. He gets better every week,” Cronin said. “I think we saw a lot of improvement from last week. I think we're going to see that on film. This team comes to practice ready to work. They seem to stay focused and coachable throughout the week, and I think if that continues, we can take a couple more steps.”
Pikeville broke through in the third quarter on a 1-yard TD by Sanders and a 17-yard scoring strike from Kirkland to Eldrick Mason.
Bethel blasted that momentum to bits, and Omosule lit the victory cigar by taking advantage of Payton Standifer's resounding hit on Kirkland while the quarterback's arm was in motion.
“We ran the pressure right into him. We knew what was coming,” Omosule said. “Payton made a great play..”
Georgetown's next two games are on the road at Bethel (Tennessee) and No. 1 Lindsey Wilson. The Tigers appear to have their best team in many seasons, but they also play in one of the toughest NAIA divisions in the country.
“We rise with the competition, and the competition rises with us,” Omosule said. “Next we've got a heavy opponent, but right now we're going to focus on this win.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.