College Football

Victory formation: Wildcats put away Crusaders with dominant second-half effort

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 20, 2020 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 20, 2020 12:16 am

CANTON, Mo. -- There was no need for a field goal try in the final minute this time.

Victory formation worked just fine.

The Culver-Stockton College football team replaced the frustration of back-to-back near misses against highly regarded Evangel with a dominant second-half effort Saturday afternoon that ended with a 34-17 victory in the season opener at Ellison Poulton Stadium.

"No nail-biter this time," C-SC senior safety Stephen Benson said. "This one felt great."

It felt like it was earned.

"I yelled at (C-SC quarterback Korbin Marcum) with about eight minutes left and said, 'You deserve this,'" said Wildcats coach Tom Sallay, whose team will travel to Benedictine next week. "He goes, 'Hell, yeah, we do.' To see these guys come alive and be excited and understand they're supposed to do this, it's cool. It's a cool day."

It's a sign this program has truly learned how to win.

Two years ago, C-SC lost 20-17 to No. 10 Evangel when a 52-yard field goal attempt with 18 seconds remaining sailed wide. Last year, a botched snap on a 46-yard field goal attempt with 30 seconds left saddled the Wildcats with a 16-14 loss to the No. 14 Crusaders.

This time, the No. 17 team in an NAIA preseason poll lost its chance to beat C-SC for the sixth straight season because of how the Wildcats' offense, defense and special teams fed off each other.

"Everybody chiming in and doing their job," senior running back Jordan Grant said. "No one was trying to make their own play. Everyone was working as a unit."

Look at what each unit did.

The offense churned out 241 yards rushing, the second highest total of Sallay's coaching tenure with Grant gaining 142 yards on the ground. Marcum threw four touchdown passes, setting the C-SC career record in the process, and the Wildcats averaged nearly 6 yards per play.

The defense forced three turnovers, limited the Crusaders to 22-percent efficiency on third down and gave up just three second-half points. In fact, Evangel had only 78 yards of total offense in the second half.

The special teams featured a punt being downed at the 1-yard line and two downed inside the 20-yard line, a 24-yard field goal and no mistakes.

"I think today, and it will show on the film, all three phases came through," senior right tackle Alex Gonzalez said. "We put together a complete game. The result speaks for itself."

Everything tilted in C-SC's favor on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Trailing 17-16 at the time, Marcum connected with Connor Perrine on a 30-yard touchdown strike to the back corner of the end zone. A field goal with 8:26 to play and Perrine's third touchdown reception of the game on a 6-yard pass with 3:36 remaining cemented the victory.

"We knew in the past two years we really beat ourselves," Perrine said. "Today, we really came out and did what we were supposed to do."

There were no self-inflicted wounds this time.

The Wildcats turned the ball over only once, limited the penalty yards to just 45, converted all four times in the red zone and owned a nearly 20-minute advantage in time of possession. Such efficiency is what will lead to more success.

"When you look up and down the sideline at some point during the game and you get to see the look in the guys' eyes where they understand they're supposed to beat these guys and do the things they're doing," Sallay said. "It's a pretty fun experience to have."

The challenge is duplicating it.

"I think it gives us momentum, but we have to go out there every single practice and work hard," Perrine said. "We can't dwell on this. We have to go out and work hard every day for the next one."