BOILING SPRINGS – Khalil Lewis rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries to lead Gardner-Webb to a 45-0 win over Benedict College Saturday night.
Gardner-Webb (2-3) averaged more than 7.0 yards per play until very late in the game and finished with 240 yards on the ground against the Tigers (3-2). Benedict entered the game allowing just 2.0 yards per rush on the season.
"We did what we had to do to come out and get a win," said head coach Carroll McCray. "We had some guys, young and old, step up and make some winning plays in all phases. It is always very important to get the taste of victory, especially at home.
"We took care of our business in the third quarter and were able to get some younger guys into the game. Nearly all of our guys who were dressed and not redshirting played. Now we have to build on the positives from tonight and get ready for a tough battle with Presbyterian to open league play."
Tyrell Maxwell ran for a touchdown and hit tight end Mike Estes for a score in the win. Estes, a redshirt senior, became the Big South Conference's all-time leader in touchdown receptions for tight ends – adding records already in hand for receptions and yardage for the position.
Gardner-Webb limited Benedict to just 154 yards offensively and forced three turnovers. Freshman cornerback Jaylan Foster benefited from two of the miscues, returning an interception 32 yards to set up a field goal and taking a fumble back 60 yards for a touchdown.
Lewis started the scoring early in the second quarter, going in from four yards out with 13:12 to play before the half. That capped a short scoring drive of 35 yards, which was set up by a 31-yard punt by the Tigers.
Maxwell pushed the lead to two touchdowns with a seven-yard quarterback draw less than three minutes later, capping a 57-yard march with 10:30 left on the clock. He hit Estes on a four-yard pass for a 21-0 lead with 5:43 left, as Gardner-Webb went 74 yards in just four plays to put the game out of reach.
Lewis had a 37-yard run on that drive to put Gardner-Webb deep into Benedict territory.
After Foster's long interception return inside the Benedict red zone, Paul Schumacher kicked a 32-yard field goal with 21 seconds before the break for a 24-0 lead.
Lewis scored on runs of five and three yards in the third quarter before Gardner-Webb went very deep into its bench the rest of the way.
Foster's 60-yard fumble return for a score, which was forced by linebacker Corey Horne near midfield, capped the scoring for Gardner-Webb.
Maxwell passed for 132 yards and a score and ran for 30 yards on seven carries, and scored for the fourth time in five games on the ground – while also throwing his third touchdown pass of the season and leading Gardner-Webb to 387 yards of total offense on the night.
Lewis finished with his third 100-yard game of the season and caught a 22-yard pass out of the backfield. The Hilton Head, S.C., sophomore has scored a touchdown in each of Gardner-Webb's first five games this season and has nine scores on the season.
Lewis is on pace for 20 rushing touchdowns, which would shatter the previous school mark for a single season – set by Shed Harris in 1996 (13).
Willie Jackson IV had three catches for 57 yards in the game, including a 42-yard grab that set up a Lewis touchdown in the second half. Seven different receivers caught passes for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Chad Geter collected eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in limited snaps, as Gardner-Webb collected 10.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in the game.
Laron Glenn had five hits, 2.0 tackles for loss a sack and a forced fumble and a fumble recovery from his end position. Foster, making his first career start, finished with five tackles, a half sack, one pass break up and two turnovers for 92 return yards and a score (interception, fumble).
Schumacher kept a dangerous Benedict kick return game at bay, booming four of his kickoffs for touchbacks in the first half. Each of his kickoffs reached the end zone. Punter Andrew Komornik was sharp as well, putting each of his five punts inside the 20-yard line for an average above 40 yards (40.8).
Benedict got 76 yards passing from starter Phillip Brown, but managed just 61 yards on 37 carries (1.6 yards per attempt). Big back Jeremy Johnson led that effort with 37 yards on seven carries.
Okeche Ntiasagwe had five catches for 55 yards to pace the receiving corps.
Benedict got 13 tackles from safety Robert Cummings and eight from Stephen Williams.
Gardner-Webb will begin Big South Conference play next Saturday at home, hosting Presbyterian at 6:00 pm. The game will air live on ESPN3 (WatchESPN.com) with Mike Hogewood and Renaldo Wynn.