Rocky Mount, N.C. - N.C. Wesleyan junior quarterback Dustin Midgett threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the last to freshman wideout Dwayne Bishop with 15 seconds remaining, to fuel a thrilling 34-30 come-from-behind win over Averett University on Saturday in Rocky Mount. Wesleyan scored 27 points in the final period to secure the team's second straight USA South win and the program's first back-to-back league victories since the 2010 season.
Trailing 24-7 entering the fourth quarter, Bishop fans had little to celebrate as the third quarter saw their team post zero points and fail to capitalize on a huge 28-yard interception return by sophomore Travonne Marshall midway the period.
Wesleyan's defense, however, forced Averett to turn the ball over on downs early in the fourth, at which point NCWC head coach Jeff Filkovski went to Midgett off the bench. Six plays later, the Currituck native hit sophomore wide receiver Malik Adams with a 45-yard scoring strike, and Codan Breckenridge's PAT made the score 24-14 with 11:20 left.
The Bishop defense again came up big on Averett's ensuing possession by forcing a three-and-out. Senior Jacques Alston then needed just one play to reel off a 71-yard scoring run that pulled his Bishops to within four points, 24-20, less than two minutes later.
Averett hoped to stifle the Bishop momentum with a 27-yard field goal by Hobie Proctor with 5:16 remaining, but Midgett again struck quickly for Wesleyan with pair of completions to Alston, the latter resulting in a 34-yard touchdown. Breckenridge's point-after completed the comeback by knotting the score at 27-27, and it was either team's game with 3:46 left in regulation.
The Cougars seemed to have the game in-hand by milking all but 45 seconds of the clock on their next drive. Proctor's 29-yard field goal put AU back on top, and with no timeouts, Wesleyan needed perfect execution on its final drive to pull off the improbable victory.
The game-winning drive began with a short kickoff to Adams, who returned the ball 19 yards to his own 40-yardline. A personal foul on Averett, however, gave the Bishops excellent field position at the AU-45. Midgett's first pass was completed to Adams for 14 yards, and after spiking the ball to stop the clock, he hit Alston with another 9-yard pass at the AU-22. An incompletion left NCWC with a 4th-and-1 with 23 seconds left, setting up Midgett's pass to Bishop at the 15-second mark that gave the Bishops their first lead of the day.
Left with just 12 seconds to operate, the Cougars saw QB Drew Evans sacked by freshman Julius Williams on their first play, forcing them to call their final timeout. Michael Clemmons' tackle near midfield on Evans' ensuing completion proceeded to end the game and ignite a Bishop celebration.
It had been all Averett up until the fourth quarter. Cougar tailback Ray Brown rushed for a pair of scores in the opening quarter, while Proctor's 32-yard field goal countered a 32-yard run by Alston to give AU a 17-7 lead at the half. AU's Evans later connected with Alan Smith from 14 yards out for the only score of the third quarter.
Midgett finished 8-of-12 through the air for 160 yards and the trio of TDs. Adams caught six passes for 124 yards, and Alston continued his stellar season on the ground with 197 yards and a pair of scores. Defensively, Anthony Janezic posted a career-high 17 tackles and a forced fumble. Fellow freshman Jaylon Johnson added 11 stops, while senior James Wallace made ten.
Wesleyan (3-2, 2-1 USA South) continues league play next Saturday at LaGrange College. Kickoff is slated for 1:00pm.