MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Rhodes College defeated Berry College, 36-24, on Saturday. The first year Vikings, however, led at halftime and put a real scare on the Lynx. Anthony Batey tied an NCAA record on a fumble return.
Dane Wilson, who had two first half fumbles, ran 20 times for 125 yards and had three touchdowns to lead Rhodes.
RC improved to 3-1 and 1-0 in the Southern Athletic Association. Berry dropped to 1-3 and 0-1.
The visiting Vikes used an opportunistic defense to force three first half RC turnovers, all of which resulted in the Berry points.
The Vikings trailed 7-0 in the first quarter when Drew McCollum forced a Wilson fumble, which was recovered by Daniel Ebert. Campbell Harrison later converted a 32-yard field goal for Berry's first points against a varsity opponent.
On the next series, Preston Stewart jarred the ball from Wilson and Matt Farinella (10 tackles) recovered for the visitors. Mitchell Blanchard went into punt formation and the team called a fake punt. Blanchard fielded a high snap, ran to the left side, and rushed 47 yards for Berry's first TD. Harrison's extra point put the visitors ahead, 10-7, at the end of the first period.
Rhodes was preparing to score when the Vikings forced another fumble. Linebacker Batey picked a Mitch DeKozan miscue six yards deep in the end zone and raced all the way for BC's first defensive touchdown. Harrison's PAT made the score 17-7 and Berry had a lead. Batey's return will go down as a 100-yard fumble recovery, matching an NCAA record (see photo).
DeKozan scampered 57 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Berry held a 17-13 lead after a missed PAT and the score remained the same at halftime.
In the second half, the Lynx held onto the ball and chipped away at the Vikings. The Lynx reeled off the next 23 points before the visitors tallied their first offensive TD. Adam Sandin (14-26, 162 yards, TD) tossed a six-yard strike to Sean Stassie with 1:23 left. Harrison's extra point made the score 36-24.
Berry tried an onside kick, but Rhodes recovered it and ran out the clock.
Berry leaves Memphis knowing many firsts are out of the way, and benchmarks were set. BC put 24 points on the board, the most by a Rhodes' opponent this year. The Vikings scored its first points, had its first lead, first halftime lead, and got its first offensive TD, too.
Rhodes produced 337 rushing yards to 55 for the Vikes. BC, however, passed for 196 yards to 89 for the home team. RC fumbled five times and lost four of them.
"The guys are starting to see more success out on the field," said Berry Head Coach Tony Kunczewski. "They are continually playing hard for 60 minutes, which is great."
The Vikings travel to St. Louis to face Washington University next Saturday.