Quarterback Alex Ogle threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another, while the Tusculum defense pitched a shutout in the second half as the Pioneers led wire-to-wire in a 31-10 non-conference win at UNC Pembroke Saturday night at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
Tusculum records its first win ever at Pembroke, while posting its second straight victory over the Braves (1-2).
The Pioneers forced five turnovers, including one on the opening kickoff which led to an early touchdown to pace the Tusculum cause.
Ogle went 14-of-25 for 198 yards, while sophomore running back Maxwell Joseph rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries including his sixth touchdown of the season.
On the kickoff to start the game, JoJo Spann sprinted from the UNCP 5 and ran 50 yards into Tusculum territory, but TC rookie kicker Gabe Schillings stripped the ball which was recovered by Chris Matheus at the TC 39. Ogle went 4-for-5 on the drive and put the Pioneers on the board with his 33-yard touchdown pass to Evan Gates. Hunter Cantrell, who serves as the holder on the extra point team, took the direct snap and scored the two-point conversion for an early 8-0 lead.
Tusculum had an opportunity to extend the lead later in the quarter when Lor'renzo Pratt sprinted 52 yards to the end zone, but the score was nullified on a holding penalty. The Pioneers were forced to punt as UNCP took over at its own 24.
UNCP quarterback Dominck Samson completed a 13-yard pass to Grant and followed with a 44-yard strike to Shammond Hicks to get to the TC 19. Josh Sheridan closed out the drive when he sprinted in for a 19-yard touchdown. Alex Alvarado's kick trimmed the TC lead to 8-7 with 4:23 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jay Boyd returned the kick 65 yards to the UNCP 25. For a second time in the quarter, a TC penalty erased a Pioneer touchdown when Ogle completed a 23-yard pass to Evan Altizer in the end zone. TC was whistled for illegal procedure to wipe out the score.
But a healthy dose of the TC running game with Pratt and Joseph carrying the load kept the drive alive with Joseph punching it in from four yards out. A Jose Esparza kick made it 15-7 Tusculum with 47 seconds left in the opening frame.
The Tusculum special teams came through again early in the second period when Altizer returned a punt 45 yards to the UNCP 32. Ogle completed a 17-yard pass to Deshawn Davis to the UNCP 15. Ogle converted a third-down and seven play with his seven-yard pass to Joseph. On fourth-down and goal from the one-yard line, Ogle snuck in for his first Tusculum score to extend the TC lead to 22-7 with 9:48 left before halftime.
The Braves salvaged a drive just before halftime when Alvarado kicked a 46-yard field goal with 27 seconds left as Tusculum took a 22-10 lead into the locker room.
Tusculum wasted little time to strike again at the start of the second half when Ogle completed a 56-yard pass to tight end Gary Breuklander for his first collegiate touchdown. The kick failed as TC led 28-10 at the 13:00 mark of the third quarter.
Later in the period, UNCP drove into Tusculum territory, but Dee Alford, who recovered a fumble in the first half, came away with his second takeaway of the night with an interception, his second of the season.
TC tacked on an Esparza 27-yard field in the opening moments of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 31-10.
The Pioneers forced its fifth turnover of the evening when senior cornerback Martez Thompkins came away with his second interception of the year and the seventh of his career, which is tied for the fourth-most in school history.
Tusculum out-gained UNCP in offensive yards by a 309-290 margin while the Pioneer defense held the Braves to zero points and only 103 yards in the second half.
UNCP edged Tusculum 18-15 in first downs with five of those coming on TC penalties as the Pioneers were whistled 11 times for 105 yards.
Ogle completed passes to nine different receivers with Banks leading the way with four catches for 38 yards, while Breuklander and Gates had two receptions apiece, including one TD grab each.
Samson finished the night going 17-of-30 for 191 yards and two interceptions. His favorite target was E.J. Williams as he made 10 catches for 95 yards.
L'Keith Brown led the Pioneers with nine tackles, including one for loss, while Matt Simon posted seven stops and one hit behind the line of scrimmage. UNCP's Josh Manns led all tacklers with 11 stops.
Tusculum returns to South Atlantic Conference play next Saturday when they host Lenoir-Rhyne for a 6 p.m. contest at Pioneer Field. TC, who played three of its first four games on the road will now play three of its next four at home.