Gardner-Webb football survives 'sleepy' second half to down Robert Morris

Gardner-Webb football ended a two-game losing skid Saturday with a 31-16 win over Robert Morris at Ernest W. Spangler Stadium in Boiling Springs.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs scored on four of their five possessions in the first half. They racked up 234 yards of offense and 28 points despite running a mere 21 plays.

Gardner-Webb is now 2-3, 1-1 in Big South/OVC competition.

It was over when…

With 3:13 left in the first quarter, Gardner-Webb quarterback Matthew Caldwell found Jayden Brown for an 8-yard touchdown, upping the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ lead to 21-0.

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Player of the game

Jayden Brown; in a flawless first quarter for Gardner-Webb, the sophomore running back from Lithonia, Georgia, was the star.

On his first touch, Brown took a pass from Caldwell 67 yards for a Runnin’ Bulldog touchdown. He was back in the end zone three minutes later, earning an 8-yard TD to give Gardner-Webb a 14-0 lead. He’d add an 8-yard TD reception to his tally late in the first.

Brown finished with 127 all-purpose yards

Other impact players

  • Will McRainey: The Gardner-Webb linebacker had 11 tackles (1.5 for a loss) and two pass breakups.

  • Brendan Jackson: The junior linebacker finished with nine tackles (1.5 for a loss).

  • Brice Bass: The senior defensive end had five tackles and three sacks.

Four downs

  • GWU quarterback goes down: With seven minutes remaining, quarterback Matthew Caldwell left the field due to a shoulder injury. Through five games, Caldwell has completed 63% of his passes for 709 yards and five touchdowns. Next on the Gardner-Webb depth chart is freshman Jaylen King, primarily used as a runner during his brief stint in the fourth.

  • Lethargic after sizzling start: After scoring touchdowns on each of its first four drives, Gardner-Webb went three-and-out on its next three drives with another ending on an Caldwell interception. The Runnin’ Bulldogs earned 15 yards. Two Gardner-Webb fumbles also directly led to Robert Morris touchdowns.

  • Finding Nemo: Prior to Saturday, East Carolina transfer Nemo Squire had received limited work with seven carries for 11 yards. His number was called a few more times against Robert Morris, rushing for 24 yards on seven carries, including an 11-yard TD.

  • Narii Gaither rests: Despite dressing out, the Gardner-Webb standout running back didn’t see action Saturday against Robert Morris.

Gardner-Webb 2023 football schedule

  • Sept. 2 at Appalachian State (L, 45-24)

  • Sept. 9 Elon (W, 34-27)

  • Sept. 16 at Tennessee State (L, 27-25)

  • Sept. 23 at East Carolina, (L, 44-0)

  • Oct. 7 Robert Morris (W, 31-16)

  • Oct. 14 at Austin Peay, 2 p.m.

  • Oct. 21 Eastern Kentucky, 6 p.m.

  • Oct. 28 UT-Martin, 1:30 p.m.

  • Nov. 4 at Bryant, 1 p.m.

  • Nov. 11 at Tennessee Tech, 2:30 p.m.

  • Nov. 18 at Charleston Southern, 1 p.m.

This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Fast start propels Gardner-Webb football to win over Robert Morris