Civets Knock Off Binturongs 126-119 in Cork Bowl 16; Kevin Ryan Wins 1st MVP Award with 15 reception/5 touchdown game, Truitt Brothers Each Throw 17 Touchdown Passes, Henney Returns and Sets Career-High with 22 receptions in Defeat
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Saturday, November 18th - "Cork Bowl is back." Those four words from Binturongs quarterback Willy Truitt, following a thrilling game, summed up Cork Bowl 16. "It was just like the glory days in late 90's and early 2000's," added Truitt. "This game lived up to all the hype and was one for the ages." After a handful of somewhat sloppy games over the past five years, Cork Bowl 16 was a crisp, offensive masterpiece that was not decided until the final drive. In the end, the Civets were able to hold off the hard-charging Binturongs for a 126-119 victory. It was only the the second time in the 16-year history of the game that the final score was a seven-point margin. "To play for 100 minutes and have the game decided by one touchdown is pretty amazing," added winning quarterback Reggie Truitt. "It shows how evenly matched the teams were and how well the game was played."

A pair of fan favorites made impressive returns after long layoffs. Jeff Henney, who was the MVP his rookie year in Cork Bowl 11, was back after missing the last three Cork Bowls. "After you've been away for a few years, you start to wonder if you'll ever get back," beemed Henney. "It never really sunk in until we pulled up to the stadium and then you realize you're going to be out there playing in a couple hours in front of a worldwide audience. It's a thrill I can't put into words." Steve "Colonel" Sanders had been away for the past four years. "It's awesome. There's no other way to describe it," added Sanders. "One year ago I was thousands of miles away from here, but as soon as I stepped on the field it was if I'd never left."

Most pundits had the Binturongs as slight favorites due to the size and speed of their receivers - including Willy Truitt's two favorite targets for the past five years in Henney and Brooks Wilson. The bigger factor in the pregame predictions may have been focused more on the Civets quarterback, however. Reggie Truitt, who had not thrown a pass since Cork Bowl 10, was named the starter at the beginning of training camp. Despite ranking third on the all-time passing list, Reggie had struggled with interceptions in the past - throwing 16 in his career. The game started almost prophetically with the Civets struggling out of the gates on their first possession. After a pair of incomplete passes put them in a third and long situation, Reggie tried to force a ball to Greg Howard down the sidelines that was intercepted by Jeff Henney and returned to midfield (VIDEO). Four plays later the Binturongs were on the board first with a Brooks Wilson touchdown reception. "We talked before the game about not giving them any easy points," recalled Civets receiver Patrick Cork. "We wanted to march down and score early and make them play from behind. The game couldn't have started worse for us, but we still had 95 minutes to play."

The Civets responded quickly with a two-play drive capped off by an 8 yard Patrick Cork touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. The Binturongs moved the ball inside the 5-yard line, but on 2nd and goal, Willy's pass for Robert Trimble in the corner of the endzone was deflected and intercepted by Greg Howard who raced down the sideline past midfield and the Civets had regained their lost possession back (VIDEO). "It's so important to get back lost possessions quickly," said Howard. "You hate to be playing from behind all day. I had a good read on the pass and got a hand on the ball and fortunately was able to keep myself in bounds." The interception was just the second one in Willy's past 185 attempts. The turnover led to another quick Civets touchdown - again to Patrick Cork - and they had their first lead of the game at 14-7. They would never trail again. On the drive, the Civets suffered a scare as star receiver Greg Howard went down with a severely sprained ankle. "I thought I was done," added Howard. "I heard a pop and dropped to the ground. When I realized it wasn't broken, there was no way I was going to stay out of the game." "We all thought Greg was done for the game when he first got hurt," said Patrick. "Of all the players for us to lose, Greg was probably #1 on the list due to his defense and being in such good shape. He toughed it out and ended up playing a darn good game considering how much pain he was in."

The pressure suddenly swung to the Binturongs, and was even greater as they were faced with a 4th and 12 scenario. But in what would become the theme of the game for both teams, they converted on a 20 yard completion to Wilson and later scored on a 4th down, 1 yard touchdown pass to Ryan Tomlinson to tie the score at 14-14. After an incomplete pass to start the drive (another theme of the game for the Civets), Reggie connected three consecutive times, capped off by a 6 yard touchdown grab by Greg Howard to take a 21-14 advantage. With just over a minute to go in the opening quarter, Jeff Henney caught a short pass and appeared to turn it into a big play as he broke several tackles and forced his way into Civets territory, but Reggie Truitt knocked the ball loose and dove on the fumble in what turned out to be the only somewhat controversial play of the game (VIDEO). Truitt appeared to have possession of the ball, but couldn't come out of the pile beause the ball was still under Henney's legs. "It was visible on the tape that Reggie dove on the ball and had it before Wilson dove in and caused the big pile up," responded announcer Tony Cork. "If Reggie had the ball, and Wilson dove on him, then he's down by contact and it doesn't matter who has possession after that. I'm pretty sure the ruling on the field would have held up if we had instant replay."

The Civets held a slim 21-14 lead after the first quarter of play. After a shaky start, Reggie Truitt calmed down to go 8-for-16 with 3 touchdowns. Willy Truitt was 11-for-18 with 2 touchdowns. Each was picked off one time. Henney led all receivers with 4 first quarter receptions, and Patrick Cork and Brooks Wilson each had 3. "I thought we would be fortunate to get out of the quarter tied after the first drive," recalled Patrick. "Not only did we have the lead, but we had the ball and a chance to go up two scores. We were hoping to get maybe one or turnovers in the game, but we got a pair in the first 25 minutes which gave us a ton of confidence."

The second turnover of the first frame eventually led to a Civets touchdown by Steve Sanders to start the second quarter, but only after a big 22-yard catch on fourth down from Howard to keep the drive alive. The touchdown gave the Civets the first two-score lead of the game at 28-14. Willy answered back going 4-for-5 and hitting Henney for his first score of the game to bring the lead down to 28-21, but Reggie went 4-for-5 on the next drive, including another 4th down completion to Patrick Cork. Jake Hoalt finished the drive with a 5 yard leaping catch in the endzone to make the score 35-21. Again, Willy marched the Binturongs quickly down the field, executing their no-huddle offense to perfection. Wilson scored from three yards out to bring the lead back to one score at 35-28. Kevin Ryan caught two passes on the next drive, including an 8 yard score, but Willy, using only Henney and Trimble on the next possession, completed an 11-yard strike to Trimble to keep the game close at 42-35 (VIDEO).

Reggie continued to stay sharp as he completed 4-of-5 passes, and Patrick Cork scored his third touchdown of the half, and 60th of his career, on fourth down from the one yard line to give the Civets a 49-35 advantage with under 2 minutes to go. Trimble caught his second touchdown pass in as many possessions with one minute to go to cut the lead to 49-42. "At that point, we were in desperate need of a stop," remarked Willy. "We were getting the ball to start the second half, so if we could hold them on their final possession, we would have a shot to tie the game to start the second half. However, the exact opposite happened."

On the Civets first play from scrimmage, Reggie found Kevin in the right flat, and he was able to tip-toe the sidelines and go the length of the field for a 36-yard touchdown to move the score to 56-42 with 50 seconds to play (VIDEO). In hurry-up mode, the Binturongs quickly marched the ball inside the 10 yard line with 30 seconds to play, but Willy made his second mistake of the day as he tried to force a pass into Henney in the endzone. Patrick Cork jumped the route and returned the interception 39 yards for a score, but in the meantime managed to run the clock out on the half by not going into the endzone until time had expired (VIDEO). "Once I got past Willy there was nobody else chasing me," said Patrick. "There were about 20 seconds left on the clock when I got close to the goal line, but I didn't want them to have another possession so I ran the clock out. I was on defense last year when the Earwigs went the length of the field with 5 seconds to go in the first half and I didn't want to give them that opportunity. Nobody ever came after me so I waited at the one yard line until the buzzer sounded. There have been a number of Cork Bowls decided by what happens in the final minute of the first half and this was another one."

The defensive score vaulted the Civets to a 63-42 halftime advantage. It was the first interception return for a touchdown in Cork's career. "We were one play away from leading by seven at halftime, and the Binturongs having the ball to start the third quarter, but suddenly we were up 21," said Greg Howard. "Not only did it have a huge impact on the momentum of the game, I think it deflated them a little bit going into halftime. Three scores is a lot to make up in this game."

The Truitt brothers were both red-hot in the second frame with Reggie going 15-for-19 with 5 touchdowns and Willy completing 15-of-21 passes for 4 touchdowns, but had the big interception late. Henney led all players again with 7 catches in the quarter and 11 receptions in the first half. Kevin Ryan began his quest for his first ever MVP award with 6 catches and 2 touchdowns. He led the Civets with 8 first half receptions. Patrick Cork had 7 catches and 3 touchdowns, while Brooks Wilson had 7 catches and 2 scores. Of the fifteen first half touchdowns, only one was over 11 yards, and seven were 5 yards or less. "Both teams did a really good job tackling and not allowing big plays in the first two quarters," recalled Reggie. "Neither of us could get that big downfield play."

The Binturongs began the third quarter with the ball and took just three plays to score on a Henney 6 yard touchdown reception to make the game 63-49, but the Civets went deep on the second play of the ensuing drive as Reggie found Sanders on a bomb down the right sideline to push the lead back to three scores at 70-49 (VIDEO). Both teams scored on big fourth down receptions as Wilson hauled in a 4th-and-goal pass from the 6 yard line for the Binturongs and Patrick Cork turned a 4th-and-10 completion into a 26 yard touchdown on a nice catch and run to make the score 77-56 despite being held, mugged and assaulted by Wilson on the play (VIDEO). "What Brooks did to Patrick on that play in coverage is against the law in all 50 states and Canada," recalled announcer Tony Cork. A pair of Wilson catches moved the ball deep inside Civets territory where Willy found Trimble for his third touchdown of the game to cut the lead to 77-63, but the Civets answered thanks to yet another 4th-and-10 completion to Patrick Cork for a first down. On the next play, Howard scored for the second time from 14 yards out to move the score to 84-63 in what was a fast and furious third quarter of play.

Willy Truitt stayed hot as he connected on four straight passes and found Tomlinson in the endzone from 1 yard out to make it 84-70 with less than 5 minutes to play in the period. The Civets converted once again on a big fourth down play as Reggie found Jake Hoalt across the middle on 4th-and-5, and Hoalt fought off Chris Cork and stretched the ball just across the goal line for his second score of the day, and the lead was 91-70 (VIDEO). On his best stretch of the game, Willy completed three more passes in a row (making him 11-for-his last 12) and a 10 yard touchdown to Trimble to make the game 91-77. The Binturongs finally got the defensive play they needed as Reggie tried to go deep to Sanders again, but his pass was underthrown in the endzone and intercepted by Wilson for a touchback to end the third quarter (VIDEO).

"We had a long discussion at halftime on what we had to do to win the game," recalled Willy Truitt. "We knew we had to score every time we had the ball and we had to find some way to get a turnover and another stop. We scored on all five of our possessions and got our turnover right at the end of the quarter so we were halfway to where we needed to be."

Willy Truitt was outstanding in the third quarter, going 16-for-21 with 5 touchdowns and completed his final 8 passes. Reggie was just 9-for-17 with an interception, but was able to lead his team to 4 touchdowns to keep the Civets up by two scores. Wilson caught 6 passes and Trimble caught 5 passes in the quarter, with Trimble scoring twice.

With new life, Willy hit Trimble on a nice catch and run for 32 yards and hit Chris Cork on a 4 yard pass for the score on the next play to cut the lead to one with 23 minutes to play at 91-84 (VIDEO). The Civets moved the ball down the field going back and forth to Kevin and Patrick, capping the drive with another 4th down conversion on a one-yard touchdown to Kevin to make the score 98-84, but the Binturongs responded quickly again with their no-huddle offense on a 6 yard touchdown to Wilson to bring the game back to a one possession game (98-91) (VIDEO). With the pressure on once again, Reggie responded with three straight completions to Sanders, Patrick and Kevin as Kevin turned his short catch into a 16 yard touchdown putting the Civets into triple digits at 105-91 (VIDEO).

The fourth quarter was turning into a scoring frenzy as Willy needed just two passes to put his team in the endzone on a hard-fought catch and run by Henney (105-98) (VIDEO), but as was the case all game long, Reggie responded with a two play drive of his own capped off by a beautiful catch and run by Greg Howard on the right sideline as Howard was able to tip-toe the sidelines, fight off a defender and get into the endzone for the third time in the game (VIDEO).

With under 10 minutes to go, and the score 112-98, the Binturongs were running out of time and were in hurry-up mode the rest of the way. Two more completions to Henney set up a 9 yard touchdown strike to Wilson to cut the lead in half to 112-105 (VIDEO), but the Civets responded with a crisp five-play drive that ended with a 10-yard shovel pass to Kevin Ryan - his third touchdown of the fourth quarter - putting the Civets up 119-105. Willy hit Henney three more times on the next possession, including a one-yard touchdown to make the score 119-112, but they needed one stop to have a shot at tying the game.

Reggie hit Sanders for 15 yards on first down to get the ball near midfield, and the Binturongs used their first timeout to stop the clock with just over 2 minutes remaining. Needing a touchdown to put the game out of reach, the Civets ran a play they had been waiting to run all game as Reggie pumped to his left and came back to his right to Patrick who had broken free on a double move, and Patrick made a diving grab in the endzone (VIDEO) for what turned out to be the game clinching score (126-112). The Binturongs needed a quick score and a turnover, but struggled to move the ball for the first time in the second half before eventually finding Wilson for a one-yard score on 4th down, but the drive took seven plays and nearly 1:30 came off the clock.

"We knew they were probably going to score, but we had to make them earn it," said Patrick. "We were in a very conservative defense, and were letting them complete short passes because the clock was on our side. They got their score, but they took a lot of time to get it."

With only one timeout remaining and just 39 seconds on the clock, the Civets needed to complete just two passes to keep the clock moving to secure the win. A short pass to Sanders and a 10-yarder to Patrick sealed the game as the Civets held on for the 126-119 win. "Any time you have a game come down to the final possession, it's exciting," said Willy Truitt. "Unfortunately we came up on the short end, but we had a chance to win going into that last drive if we could have forced a couple incomplete passes or a turnover."

In what turned out to be the highest scoring quarter of the game, the two teams combined to score 77 points in the final frame as both quarterbacks had their best 25 minutes of the game. Willy Truitt was 18-for-26 with 6 touchdowns in the quarter. He was nearly perfect in the second half completing 29-of-47 passes for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Reggie was equally effective in the fourth quarter completing 18-of-22 passes for 5 touchdowns, including 14 of his final 16 passes to clinch the win. The big numbers from the quarterbacks meant big numbers from the receivers as five players caught at least 5 passes in the quarter. Jeff Henney capped off an impressive return with 8 catches and 2 scores in the period and Brooks Wilson caught 6 passes and scored 3 times. Patrick Cork and Kevin Ryan each caught 5 in the fourth quarter, as Kevin scored 3 times. Steve Sanders also had 5 receptions in the period.

After having nearly all of the scores coming from inside ten yards in the first half, the Civets made some halftime adjustments and took a few more chances that resulted in big scores. Only one of their 11 second half touchdowns was less than 10 yards, and five of the scores were from 20+ yards. "We had run so much short stuff that we thought the deep ball would be open," said Reggie Truitt. "We got a couple big plays down the field that helped take away any momentum they may have had." After having three turnovers in the first half, the Binturongs were perfect in the second half scoring on every one of their 11 second half possessions. "We needed two stops in the second half and we only got one (on the interception)," recalled Henney.

Four players had career highs on the day, including all-time leading passer Willy Truitt who shattered his career bests going 60-for-86 with 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Truitt's previous career highs were 46 / 77 / 17. He threatened the single-game records of 62 completions and 92 attempts set by Kirby Newell in Cork Bowl 14. "I would trade half of those completions away in order to take those two interceptions back," thought Truitt. "I've prided myself on not making mistakes and I made two today. I'm used to being a little more of a gunslinger back there and throwing the ball deep, but they were playing a deep safety and making us complete three or four passes every drive to score. It resulted in a lot of numbers, but we came up just short."

Reggie Truitt didn't quite match his career bests, but had his most effective game at quarterback of his career finishing 50-for-74 with 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In his last three games at quarterback, Truitt had been picked off 11 times. After being intercepted on the third play of the game, Truitt was picked off just one time in his final 70 attempts. "You can't win this game if you turn the ball over," said Truitt. "I was a little anxious to make a play early and that cost us, but I settled down and trusted my receivers to make plays and more often than not, they did."

Jeff Henney led all players with a career-high 22 receptions, and scored 4 times. "Henney was an animal out there today," said Willy. "He battled all day and took a lot of hits but he never backed down. In my opinion he was the best player on the field. Had we won, there is little doubt he would have been the MVP." Brooks Wilson hauled in 19 passes and scored 6 touchdowns and Robert Trimble had career highs with 12 receptions and 4 touchdowns. Ryan Tomlinson had 5 catches and 2 touchdowns and Chris Cork caught 2 passes and scored once.

The Civets game plan was run to near perfection, and resulted in an unexpected MVP for the second consecutive year. Robert Trimble shocked everyone with his MVP performance in the snow in Cork Bowl 15, and Kevin Ryan turned in the best game of his 11-year career this year in the mud. Kevin had a career-high 15 catches and scored five touchdowns - three of which came in the fourth quarter. The Civets strategy prior to the game was to use Kevin strictly on offense and allow him to rest all game while they were on defense. Other than about a dozen plays where Kevin played defense, he spent nearly half the game resting on the sidelines. "We needed to have Reggie, Jake and Greg on the field on defense the whole game, and with me playing safety, it allowed us to get Kevin a lot of rest," added Patrick. "When you have a big, bruising tight end like him you want to have him fresh for the fourth quarter and he obviously was." "It's never a goal of mine to win MVP coming into a game," stated Ryan. "You always want to win the game first and not worry about individual stuff, but I thought I had an opportunity to have a lot of catches this year with the game plan Reggie and Patrick put in."

Patrick Cork led the Civets with 16 receptions and 5 touchdowns, including five receptions on fourth down plays that resulted in a first down or touchdown. "Patrick was my go-to guy when we needed a big catch," said Reggie. "It seemed like every time he caught a pass it was at a key point in the drive." Steve Sanders came on strong in the fourth quarter finishing with 10 catches and 2 touchdowns. Greg Howard battled through his ankle injury over the final 3 1/2 quarters and finished with 6 catches and 3 touchdowns, while Jake Hoalt had 3 catches, scoring on two of them.

Defensively, the Binturongs were led by Robert Trimble's 12 tackles. Brooks Wilson had 9 tackles and an interception and Jeff Henney had 5 tackles with an interception. Chris Cork and Ryan Tomlinson each had 3 tackles and Willy Truitt had 2. The Civets put three players in double figures in tackles led by career leader Reggie Truitt's 13. Steve Sanders also had a career-high with 13 tackles and Greg Howard had 10 tackles and an interception. Jake Hoalt finished with 8 tackles, Patrick Cork had 4 tackles and an interception for a touchdown, and Kevin Ryan had 2 tackles.

In one of the most amazing stats in Cork Bowl history, neither team was stopped on downs the entire game. "I'd have to check the record books to be sure, but I've played in 16 of these games and I can't remember that ever happening to one team, let alone both," recalled Patrick Cork. It wasn't due to lack of opportunities either. The Civets were 8-for-8 on fourth down conversions in the game and the Binturongs were 6-for-6. "That may be the stat that best defines this game," added Willy Truitt. "Time and time again both teams were put in positions where they had to make a huge play and we converted every single time. It's one of the more unbelievable stats I've seen in a football game. Some would say it was poor defense, but I think the offenses were so good this year that it didn't matter what the defense did." Each team had 20 possessions in the game and scored 17 offensive touchdowns apiece. The defensive touchdown by Patrick Cork to end the first half turned out to be the difference.

In another hard-to-believe stat, the Civets struggled mightily on first down all game long. On the first play of possessions, they completed just 10-of-20 passes, compared to 15-for-20 for the Binturongs. "It's kind of hard to believe we put ourselves in such a deep hole to start out half our drives, but it shows how mentally strong our team was," said Greg Howard. Taking away the 10-for-20 on first down plays, Reggie Truitt only threw 14 incomplete passes the rest of the game. He was a mind-boggling 40-for-54 (74.1%) on passes other than the first play of a drive.

After missing four years, and losing his only two games, Steve Sanders was elated after the win to get his first championship ring. "It's a feeling that nobody can describe," beemed Sanders, who refused to let go of the trophy for over an hour after the game. "All the hard work and preparation pays off in the end. I've never been to Disneyland, but I don't want to go there right now. I want to do what every championship winning football player does - I want to be on "Dancing with the Stars."

 

Cork Bowl 16 Game Notes:

Patrick Cork's 6 touchdowns give him 63 for his career and his 16 catches brought his career total just six shy of 200 with 194....Brooks Wilson's 19 catches moved him from 7th all the way to 4th on the all-time list with 88 receptions....Greg Howard's 10 tackles gives him 97 in his career, moving him up to #2 all-time behind only Reggie Truitt who has 116...Willy Truitt's 17 touchdown passes brings his career total to 135 (Tony Cork is second with 71)....Kevin Ryan now has 32 career touchdowns which ranks him 4th all-time....Reggie Truitt's forced fumble brought his career turnover mark to 15 (13 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles - he leads Patrick Cork (8 interceptions, 6 forced fumbles) by one on the all-time list....Jeff Henney now has 6 interceptions in just 3 career games

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