LaGrange, Ga. - North Carolina Wesleyan's football team dropped its USA South Conference opener on Saturday, falling to LaGrange College by a 40-13 score on the road. The Panther defense held the Bishops to just 200 yards on the day, all through the air. The game was the USA South opener for both teams as the Panthers (1-3, 1-0 USA South) got their first win of the season.
The Panthers rushed for 310 yards in the game, while their defense had its best day of the season, recovering five fumbles -- returning one for a touchdown -- and tallying five quarterback sacks.
For the Bishops, freshman quarterback Laron Ellerbe completed seven passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. He had scoring passes of 71 yards to Jamias Williams and 67 yards to Quinton Richmond. Wesleyan finished the game with -20 yards rushing.
The Panther defense got the first points of the game on the third play from scrimmage. Ellerbe's third-down pass to Richmond from his own 28 was ruled a lateral, and LC linebacker Scott Chewning scooped the ball and ran 12 yards for the score to put the Panthers up 7-0. A second fumble by the Bishops set the Panthers up for their second touchdown, and the Panthers led 14-0 after the first quarter.
Will Jeffcoat's 25-yard field goal came after the Bishops turned the ball over for the third time at their 36 to increase the Panthers' lead to 17-0. On the Bishops' next possession, punter B.G. Howell muffed the snap and was tackled by Nick Raszeja in the end zone for a safety and a 19-0 lead.
Wesleyan cut the Panthers' lead to 19-7 late in the half. Facing a second and 29, Ellerbe hit Richmond in stride for a 71-yard catch and run touchdown with 3:23 left. The Panthers, however, answered with a quick eight-play, 74-yard drive to take a 26-7 lead at the half.
Wesleyan had the only score in the third quarter, needing only five plays to go 97 yards. Williams covered the final 67 yards after Ellerbe ran away from pressure by the Panther defensive line to complete the pass.
The Panthers put together two scoring drives in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Wesleyan (1-3, 0-1 USA South) returns home next Saturday to host Methodist University at 1:00pm at the Northern Nash Footall Complex. The Battling Bishops will be celebrating their 2012 Homecoming the entire weekend.