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Football Dominates Defensively to Win Season Opener

Football Dominates Defensively to Win Season Opener

SEWANEE, Tenn. — The Southwestern University Pirates football team suffocated the Sewanee Tigers with a dominant defensive performance, clock-eating running game, and a few big passing plays to open the season with a 47-7 win. 

Returning most of its starters on defense, the Pirates appeared in mid-season form, holding the Tigers to just 195 yards of total offense in the game, including under 100 yards in the first half. 

Defensive end Garrett Womack applied pressure on the Sewanee offense until it broke, recording two of the Pirates' five sacks with three tackles for losses. Hayden Smith led the Pirates with seven tackles, including five solo, and the defensive backfield recorded three interceptions, returning them for a combined 26 yards. 

"Our defense did fantastic. When we had our starting group out there, they didn't give up much of anything," Head Coach Joe Austin said. "Our defense is going to have to set the tone and they put us in great position to get the victory." 

The Southwestern defense forced five three-and-out possessions, including consecutive possessions at the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter, allowing the Pirates to get out to a 20-0 lead at the half. 

With new starting quarterback Austin Emery at the helm and a slew of inexperienced quarterbacks on the depth chart, the Pirates relied on a heavy run game and a bevy of skilled players to make plays in space. 

Under those conditions, Emery executed the game plan with precision. He opened the game with a swing pass to David Brandenburg on the Pirates' first offensive play for 17 yards. Southwestern faced two third downs on the opening drive, keeping it alive with a Brandenburg rush for 16 yards and a 15-yard run by Emery, punctuated by a four-yard touchdown run to put the Pirates on the board. 

With the early lead, the Pirates turned to a punishing run game, compiling 331 net yards rushing on 65 attempts for 5.1 yards per carry. 

Elijah Smith was dynamic out of the backfield, dicing the Sewanee defense for 92 rushing yards on 12 carries with one touchdown and also receiving one pass for 18 yards.  

Emery carried much of the workload, moving the chains incrementally with 61 yards on 21 attempts and three rushing touchdowns while also directing the option. Backup quarterback Landry Gilpin was a nice change of pace option with 58 yards rushing on four attempts, doing most of his damage on a 45-yard run. 

Brandenburg was the Pirates' most potent weapon, rushing seven times for 50 yards and hauling in three passes for 88 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown on Southwestern University's second drive. 

"We're counting on David [Brandenburg], he's one of our more experienced guys," Austin said. "We're relying on [our skilled positions] to make plays while our quarterbacks get up to speed."

The Pirates didn't dial up passes often, attempting only 14 for the game, but when called upon Emery made the most of his opportunities with a 6-for-9 passing performance for 152 yards and two touchdowns, finding Brandenburg on the Pirates' second possession and connecting with Anfernee Stephens on a 26-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give the Pirates a 34-0 lead. 

Sewanee's lone score came on a 24-yard pass from Alex Darras to Colin May on a one-play drive after a Pirate fumble gave Sewanee a short field to work with. 

Southwestern will have a bye week before starting conference play at home against Louisiana College on Saturday, Sep. 21 at 6:00 p.m.