Saturday was a day of firsts for the UVa-Wise football team, as freshman quarterback Tanner Bernard led the Cavaliers to their first win of the year with a 35-20 victory over Concord University in his first career start.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Mountain Lions put the first points on the board halfway through the second quarter to make it an 8-0 game. The Cavaliers cut the deficit to one point just 34 seconds before the end of the half, when Bernard connected with senior wide receiver Kaian Duverger for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Bernard and Duverger teamed up to score again in the third quarter, when Duverger caught a 23-yard pass to give the Cavaliers a 14-8 lead. Concord tied the game at 14-14 just over a minute later, but the Cavaliers needed just 16 seconds to retake the lead after sophomore running back Jamorya Cousin broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run. His touchdown gave the Cavaliers the lead for good, as Duverger caught his third touchdown and senior running back Von Purvis scored on an 18-yard run to seal the win for UVa-Wise.
Bernard completed 24 of 30 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 42 yards against the Mountain Lions. The bulk of Bernard’s success came in part from Duverger’s career-day, as he had a career-high 173 yards on eight receptions and caught all three of Bernard’s touchdown passes. Duverger said that his coaches pushed for him to work hard in practice this week after catching only two passes in last week’s loss.
“I was just mentally prepared and came out to do what I had to do,” he said. “Like Coach James Guest said this was in our hands — it wasn’t on the o-line, it wasn’t on the quarterback, it wasn’t on the running backs. He said all week since Monday it’s the receivers — it’s in our hands.”
Bernard said that having a receiver like Duverger on the field made a difference for him as a freshman making his first start.
“A weapon like (Duverger), you just throw the ball to him pretty much and he’ll do the rest for you,” he said.
Looking at Bernard’s game, Cousin said he was impressed by how the freshman performed, especially with his management of the offense before the snap.
“We went through some quarterback changes, and for him to step up as a freshman and come out there and…play with that confidence, he was actually making audibles and changing up stuff,” Cousin said. “Any time my teammates do good, I’m happy.”
Cousin rushed for a career-high 231 yards on 25 attempts with a touchdown, while Purvis finished with 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes. When reflecting on his performance, Cousin said that he feels he’s capable of doing even more.
“That (231) yards, that was nothing. God gave me the ability to do the things I do and I put in a lot of hard work,” Cousin said. “My offensive lineman they did a tremendous job. Kaian and the wide receivers on the blocking, they did a tremendous job, and that’s who I want to thank for that.”
The Cavaliers (1-2) will head back on the road for their next game, as they face the West Liberty Hilltoppers on Saturday. UVa-Wise has won both of their last two games against West Liberty, defeating the Hilltoppers 28-27 in 2016 and 31-19 in 2017.