Surrounded a by a crush of alumni that included representatives from three national championship teams, Georgetown College picked a great time to get well and begin its rally toward another possible NAIA playoff berth.
No. 20 GC used two long touchdown passes to Dylan Hughes — one on a tried-and-true trick play — and five takeaways to turn back Thomas More, 27-17, on a picturesque homecoming Saturday afternoon at Toyota Stadium.
To a man, the orange-clad Tigers made a post-game pilgrimage to the north end zone and saluted the many former players who tailgated in that corner while watching the current squad stop a two-game losing skid.
“As more people come, we just try to put on a show for 'em,” said Rob Sheffield, whose interception stopped a potential game-tying drive by the Saints midway through the fourth quarter.
Joshua Edwards' second field goal of the day covered 26 yards and capped a time-consuming drive to make it a two-score game. DJ White and Marcus Omosule shared a fourth-down sack that put Thomas More's final march to rest.
Georgetown (5-2, 2-2) stayed alive in the Mid-South Division Bluegrass Division chase with games against Campbellsville. Cumberlands and Cumberland (Tennessee) remaining. The last two will be at home.
“We needed something to happen, because we had a rough two weeks. The guys practiced hard this week. I thought we performed pretty well today,” Georgetown coach Bill Cronin said. “I think we're pretty consistent on defense, and that's keeping us in ballgames. Any time you can do that, you can be successful.”
White, Payton Standifer and Chad Holleran joined Sheffield with interceptions for the Tigers. Sander Roksvag added a fumble recovery and one of the Tigers' five sacks. Omosule had a hat trick in that category.
GC turned White's pick into a 2-yard touchdown run by Jalen Lumpkin but still trailed 10-7 when Maleek Jarrett matched that plunge for the Saints (3-4) with 13:30 remaining in the first half.
That's when the Tigers turned to a flanker option that has been productive this season with both Aaron Maggard and Jake Johnson fielding the lateral from Brandon Burgess. This time it was Maggard dropping a 42-yard dime to Hughes, who made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch despite being shadowed by a defender who didn't completely bite on the element of surprise.
“That was for the alumni. We'll take it any way we can get it. I see these guys from my early years here, so they're getting old,” Cronin quipped. “Lot of tradition here, a lot of good people. I just love it when they get a chance a little bit to mingle with our alumni. That's what it's all about.”
Edwards connected from 32 yards to make it 17-10 in the final minute of the third quarter. GC's defense then served up a three-and-out to set the stage for Burgess' 73-yard bomb to Hughes.
The offense couldn't cash in after Standifer's interception in the end zone, and the Saints cut their deficit in half on a 29-yard strike from Rae'Von Vaden to Roques Dowdy with 10:27 left
Georgetown again went backwards on its next drive before Sheffield read Vaden's eyes and returned his interception 35 yards into Thomas More territory.
“I knew it was going to be a boot play. As soon as the quarterback rolled out, the tight end was loose, and I already knew my corner was covering the deep third,” Sheffield said. “So I basically drove, jumped the pick, and then I thought I was going to get six, but everybody rolled over that way.”
The Tigers' held the Saints' QB rotation of Vaden and Jay Volpenheim to 15-for-35 and 206 yards. In addition to its interceptions, GC broke up seven other passes.
“I feel like (Thomas More's success) was the quarterback getting out of pocket and extending plays, so it made it harder for us,” Sheffield said. “Without those extended plays, I felt the game would have been easier.”
Georgetown lost 35-0 last week at No. 1 Lindsey Wilson and 25-24 before that at Bethel.
The Tigers righted the ship on a day when they honored the 1991, 2000 and 2001 national championship squads.
“We need every game from here on out,” Sheffield said.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.