UPIKE entered Saturday 0-15 against No. 17 Georgetown all time, but used a buzzer-beating field goal to top the Tigers and claim a share of the program’s first MSC East Title on Nov. 12.
Senior Damir Karapandzic’s 34-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, giving the University of Pikeville football team a 10-7 win at Georgetown.
The kick not only won the game, it also gave the Bears their first share of a Mid-South Conference East Division Championship and allowed them to beat the Tigers for the first time in program history. Before Saturday, Pikeville had lost all 15 games against Georgetown since starting the program in 2001.
The Bears close the regular season with a 6-5 overall record and 5-1 mark in the division. It’s the fifth time the Bears have tallied six or more wins in the last 16 seasons. UPIKE had finished second in in the MSC two other times – in 2004 and 2005 – but this is the first championship, although it will be shared with Georgetown which had an identical 5-1 record.
While Karapandzic provided the heroics, this was a game fought for by the defense which limited Georgetown (7-4) to just 111 yards of total offense, the second fewest gained this season. By allowing the Tigers just 42 yards through the air, the Bears broke the program record for passing yards given up in a season at 1,471.
UPIKE tallied 297 yards of offense, including 173 rushing, as it posted a 19-8 advantage in first downs and controlled the ball for 13 more minutes than the Tigers. Willie McCloud led all players with 77 yards rushing – including a long of 46 – while Jamar Kirksey rushed for 71.
Bowen Smith played the bulk of the snaps at quarterback for UPIKE, completing 13-of-25 passes for 111 yards with a touchdown and interception. Braxton Whitmore was Smith’s top target with seven catches for 53 yards and Austin Pray collected four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Camron Parsley and Romon Morris finished with six tackles each to lead the Bears, followed by Jordan Mattingly and Tanner Fiser with five each.
The University of Pikeville football team was in line for an automatic bid to the NAIA Championship Series with its first Mid-South Conference divisional title, but will fall just short of the top-20 ranking requirement after receiving votes in the final NAIA Coaches’ Poll of the season on Sunday, Nov. 13.
According to voting points, the Bears close the 2016 regular season ranked 28th in the nation. Georgetown, which it beat on Saturday and shares the divisional title with, dropped from 17th to 25th in the poll to miss going to the postseason as well.
This is UPIKE’s first time appearing in the NAIA Top-25 Poll in any capacity since 2013 when it was ranked 25th after topping NCAA Div. I FCS Morehead State.
UPIKE has made one appearance in the NAIA postseason in 2005 when it lost to St. Francis (Ind.) 41-7 in the first round.