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Urbana University escapes McKendree on Homecoming

Homecoming football across the country means the return of alumni and friends, festive crowds, and celebrations that often last long into the night. At Urbana University, the Blue Knight football team is adding another tradition to their annual Homecoming Game: offensive fireworks in dominant wins.

On Saturday afternoon at UU Stadium, the Blue Knights continued their tradition by hanging 533 total yards and a 31-23 victory over the Bearcats from McKendree University. The win is Urbana’s tenth in the past 11 homecomings, and it’s the third straight year the Blue Knights have topped 500 yards and 30 points in a Homecoming win.

McKendree kicked off the scoring on Saturday on a 9-yard Cameron James touchdown. Urbana answered with a Marshall Newsome 31-yard field goal at the end of the first quarter to climb within 7-3.

After stopping a 10-play Bearcat drive on downs, Urbana scampered 80 yards on 7 plays to take a 10-7 lead. Senior running back Jeffvon Gill jumped over a pile at the goal line from a yard out for his first score of the day.

Less than two minutes later, McKendree regained the lead on an Isaac Fisher 38-yard TD pass to Joe Santiago. The PAT was blocked by Daniel Goodrum, and the visitors led 13-10.

Each team added another score on their final drives before the half. Urbana QB D.J. Mendenhall (pictured) found a streaking Marc Johnson down the middle of the field for a 70-yard hook-up to put the home team ahead 17-13. The Bearcats hurried down the field just before the break to get into position for a 35-yard Matt Kendall field goal. The kick made it a one-point game heading into the half.

A quick 66-yard strike from Mendenhall to Sanders Sius in the first minute of the third quarter put some breathing room between the two teams. The Blue Knights’ lead grew to 15 points later in the quarter on Gill’s second 1-yard TD plunge of the afternoon. Gill racked up over 100 yards on the ground for the second straight week, finishing with 129 yards and 2 scores on 26 carries. He also caught a team-high 5 passes for 36 more yards.

McKendree made it interesting late. With nine minutes to play, Fisher found a wide-open Pat Doty on a 17-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 31-23, but the Blue Knight defense stonewalled the Bearcats on their final two possessions.

Junior linebacker Roy Harvison led all tacklers with 12, including one stop for a loss. Senior linebacker Drew Underwood was right behind Harvison with 11 tackles. Defensive end Perry Jenkins continued his strong senior campaign with 8 stops, including 1.5 for a loss, 1 sack and 4 pass-breakups. It was Jenkins who disrupted the Bearcats’ backfield on a pair of last ditch pass attempts late in the fourth quarter. Lamar Ross and David McComas also finished with 8 tackles apiece, and Goodrum forced a fumble on a sack in addition to his 7 tackles and blocked PAT.

Mendenhall finished with a career-high 362 yards passing in addition to 51 yards on the ground. It’s the third time this season he’s racked up over 300 yards passing and 50 yards rushing. His 21 touchdown passes this season ties the school record. Wide receivers Joe Webb and Marc Johnson each eclipsed 100 yards through the air. Webb had 109 yards on 4 catches, while Johnson finished with 104 yards on 3 catches.

With the win, Urbana keeps pace with GLVC frontrunner Indianapolis. The Blue Knights have won four straight conference games and sit at 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the GLVC. Undefeated Indianapolis has to end the regular season with a trip to Urbana to face the Blue Knights, but before that showdown, Urbana travels to Missouri S&T University next Saturday for a battle between 1-loss teams. Kickoff is slated for 2:00 p.m.

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