Maryville College's Jacob Bunch rushed for all four of the Scots' touchdowns on Saturday, as the sophomore's performance earned USA South Player of the Week honors.
Bunch – a Bean Station, Tenn. native – rushed for 171 yards on 27 carries. He tied the Maryville College record with four rushing touchdowns in a single game, as the Scots defeated LaGrange, 28-10, in the conference challenge.
"That was big for us," Head Coach Shaun Hayes said. "What he's really done this season for our offense is incredible. We've struggled up and down the field at moments. We look like, in some drives, one of the most prolific offenses in the nation, and other drives, we look like we couldn't even line up to play an intramural football game. It's been a little chaotic with injuries and other things, but he's been a consistent factor, especially in the red zone. I think we lead the conference in red zone percentage. I can't remember the last time we settled for a field goal. It's because of Jacob Bunch and his ability to break tackles – his ability to finish plays and to smell the end zone. I'm not surprised that he had his hand in all those touchdowns, but it's big for our offense. It's big for our team. I'm happy for him, because now, he is reaching his true potential when he's been able to do the things he has the past couple weeks."
Bunch tallied his third 170-plus yard game of the season and his second in a row with Saturday's performance, as he matched the Maryville mark.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound back tied Charsie Robertson and Evan Pittenger on the only Scots to rush for four scores. Robertson did the feat in 1994 against Kentucky Wesleyan, while Pittenger – a quarterback – accomplished the mark in 2015 versus Averett University.
"I don't know how [Robertson] did it, but Pittenger was all outside runs," Hayes said. "Jacob's is all power, right in your face. There's two different types of runs there, but both of those guys allowed us to be very, very dangerous when we got the ball in there tight. Getting seven and getting three are two totally different things. You know, when the field tightens down, it gets faster and harder to score. You've got to be able to run people over, or you've got to be able to find matchups. Jacob is a matchup disaster on top of running people over. Pitt was just a matchup disaster because of his speed. Tying a record is always something special. Fortunately, I've been a part of a lot of them. It just shows that our recruiting has been really good in areas. Coach Martin and his staff have done an awesome job in that. It also shows when we do have opportunities, we're making the most of them in those situations."
Maryville tallied just 11 yards on 10 plays in the game's first quarter on Saturday, before bouncing back. Bunch led the way, as they mustered 119 yards on 21 plays in the second stanza.
MC's defense allowed just 101 yards over the final three quarters, as the Scots went on a 28-0 run during that span with 271 total yards.
Bunch got the scoring started with 8:42 left in the second quarter. He capped an 11-play, 56-yard drive with a 9-yard run. He also added runs of 15 and 10 in the march, as the Scots trailed 10-7.
He gave MC the lead for good less than three minutes later. The sophomore was set up by a Haydn Tanner interception – his second takeaway of the afternoon. Bunch found a gap for a 15-yard touchdown run, making the score 14-10.
A five-play, 58-yard drive began after Trenton Cumby and JaCorey Jackson stuffed Cam Perkins for a loss on fourth-and-2. Bunch had three-straight runs of 29, 5 and 3 yards – the final going for his third score of the day. MC led 21-10 with 8:52 left in the third quarter.
Both teams went scoreless until late in the fourth quarter. Braden Cloyd picked off Shedrick Lindsey, as he returned it 18 yards to the LaGrange 47. Bunch again took control, adding runs of 17 and 7 yards. He completed the six-play drive with another 17-yard score with 1:21 left for the 28-10 victory.
"The final touchdown was on stretch," Hayes said. "It was good to see him score on a different run scheme. He's just a sophomore, you know. He won't become complacent, and I expect him to only get better."
Bunch already leads the conference with his 823 rushing yards this season – 160 more than the closest opponent. He averages 117.6 yards per game, while going for a 6.0 yards per carry mark. The sophomore is also tied atop the conference with his nine rushing touchdowns.
Bunch is just 458 yards off Elijah Chenier's season rushing record of 1,281 yards set in 2016. The sophomore has three games of 170 or more yards and a fourth game at 129 yards. He would need to average 152.6 yards over the final three games in order to tie Chenier's season mark.
"It's not over," Hayes said. "We'll see. We had a long conversation. I know his potential. He's from my home town, and I've known him my whole life. Jacob was a guy that was an All-State golfer and didn't really play football until his junior or senior year. That's why he wasn't really recruited. There's more to come. It's not near over for this season, nor in the future. It's not over. I think he's finally realizing how to be the man at the collegiate level as he did in high school."
Bunch has 998 rushing yards in 13 career games. He's averaged 5.9 yards per carry for his career, tallying 11 touchdowns.
The sophomore will look to lead the Scots this weekend, as they travel to Danville, Va., to face off with the Cougars of Averett University. Kickoff for the USA South bout is slated for 1:00 p.m.