BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. - Kenny Little ran for a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns, and Ricky Rhodes added 114 yards as Gardner-Webb dominated the ground game in a 34-13 win over Virginia State.
Gardner-Webb (4-5) won its third game in a row and ran for a season-high 296 yards on 50 carries. The Runnin' Bulldogs hosted a Thursday night game in Spangler Stadium for the first time in school history - on a night that saw the weather deteriorate with cold, rainy conditions by game's end.
The Runnin' Bulldogs held Virginia State (5-5) to minus-25 yards rushing in the game, the fewest allowed in a game since Davidson rushed for minus-36 yards in 1985. The Trojans did have some success throwing the football, with Jarred Battle completing 25-of-48 passes for 282 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Gardner-Webb went up 14-0 early in the second quarter and led 14-3 at the break before Virginia State answered with 10 points in the third quarter to trim the lead to 14-13. The Runnin' Bulldogs ran off 20 unanswered points from there, with Little's 72-yard touchdown run on a third down play with 10:06 left breaking the game open for good.
Little opened the scoring with 51 seconds left in the first quarter, darting in and out of tackles for a nine-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one play. Ivan Toomer set up the scoring drive, intercepting a Battle pass and returning it 54 yards to the Virginia State 31-yard line.
Quarterback Carter Browning capped a 74-yard march by calling his own number from one yard away, giving the 'Dogs a 14-0 lead with 9:16 to play before the half. Virginia State answered with a 25-yard field goal from William Rudd with 4:33 on the second quarter clock, the first of two short field goals for Rudd in the game.
The Trojans used a ball-control passing attack to score its only touchdown of the game, hitting several underneath routes on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 13-yard scoring pass from Battle to Timothy Paulk with 7:19 to play in the third quarter. The Trojans ran the football just once in the drive, which cut the 'Dogs lead to 14-10.
Another long drive, this time 10 plays for 64 yards, and with only one running play called - led to Battle's final field goal of the night to trim the lead to 14-13 with 50 seconds to play in the third.
Trever Austin answered with a 26-yard field goal of his own with 12:57 to play in the game for a 17-13 Gardner-Webb lead, and Little put the game away with his 72-yard dash - the longest of his career. Browning added another one-yard touchdown plunge with 7:04 to play after a Gianni Olivas interception - and Austin capitalized on another Olivas interception with an 18-yard field goal for the final margin with just over two minutes to play.
Gardner-Webb piled up 443 yards of total offense, averaging 6.2 yards per play in the game - which started with sunny skies and 62 degree weather and ended with a steady rain and temperatures in the low 50s.
Little's effort was encouraging, as he gained his 153 yards on just 15 carries after missing the past two weeks with an injury. He and Rhodes combined to give Gardner-Webb a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game for the second time in 2011. The 100-yard game was Rhodes' second in the past three weeks.
Alonzo Winfield collected a career-high nine total tackles (five solo), 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack to go with a pass break up to pace the defensive effort. Marty Patterson added seven tackles and Toomer recorded a season-high six hits (five solo), an interception and three pass break ups in a solid performance.
Virginia State had 257 yards of total offense. Battle's favorite receiver was Paulk, who caught seven passes for 44 yards. Alan Anderson had six catches for 85 yards and Corey Young hauled in six for 78 yards.
Jeremy Pruitt, the CIAA's leading tackler, posted a game-high 14 stops (five solo) and 2.5 tackles for loss to pace the Trojans' defensive effort.
Gardner-Webb will remain at home and return to Big South play next week, as it hosts Stony Brook at 1:30 on Saturday, November 12. Virginia State's season is complete.