Second-Half Rally Leads Football Past Birmingham Southern

Second-Half Rally Leads Football Past Birmingham Southern

Birmingham, Ala., Sept. 24, 2016  – The Washington University in St. Louis football team scored 29-unaswered points in the second half as the Bears posted a 36-21 road win at Birmingham Southern College Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.

WashU improved its overall record to 2-1, 1-1 in the Southern Athletic Association (SAA), while Birmingham Southern dropped to 1-3, 1-1 in the SAA.

Trailing 21-7 at half, WashU's defense limited Birmingham Southern to 78 yards of total offense in the second half.

"We came out slow out of the locker room for the third-straight game. We had to refocus at half," said WashU head coach Larry Kindbom. "Our kids were awesome in the second half. We were making plays and getting off our blocks."

Senior running back Austin Smestad ran for a career-high 169 yards on 19 carries with three second-half TDs, while sophomore running back Logan Bash picked up 108 yards on 18 carries. The Bears ran for a season-high 276 yards in the win.

WashU fell behind 7-0 after Birmingham Southern scored on its first possession after a blown coverage on 3rd and long. The Bears answered back when senior quarterback J.J. Tomlin connected with sophomore wide receiver Matthew Goldberg for a seven-yard TD strike to make it 7-7.

The TD by Goldberg was the lone highlight of the first half for the WashU offense, as the Bears turned it over twice and punted twice in their final four possessions.

Birmingham Southern scored on its first three possessions of the contest, and took a 21-7 lead to half.

Junior Dan Kalvaitis booted a 33-yard field goal on the Bears' opening possession of the third quarter to trim the lead to 21-10. After a defensive stop, Tomlin connected with senior wide receiver Kevin Hammarlund for a 14-yard TD to make it 21-16.

With the defense in control, Smestad took over. He scored from six yards out with 6:31 left in the third quarter to give the Bears the lead for good. Smestad added 28-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and then rounded out the scoring with 14-yard TD late in the fourth quarter.

WashU limited Birmingham Southern to 345 yards of total offense (201/passing; 144/rushing) and forced six punts. After being on the field for an average of 100.5 plays per game in the first two contests, the Bears limited Birmingham Southern to 65 offensive plays in the win.

Senior defensive back Dylan Newcomb led the defensive unit with eight tackles (seven solo), while senior defensive lineman Josiah Situmeang made seven solo stops. Sophomore linebackers Max Barnett and Jake Coon each recorded an interception in the win.

The Bears eclipsed 500 yards off total offense for the second time this season with 505 yards on 72 plays. Tomlin completed 22-of-32 passes for 229 yard and two TDs, while Hammarlund (eight catches, 75 yards, TD) and senior tight end Matt Page (five catches, 73 yards) were his two favorite targets.

WashU returns home to host Berry College on Saturday, Oct. 1. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Francis Field.

BEAR NOTEBOOK: WashU has won both of the all-time meetings between the two teams … Coaches for both teams wore patches as part of the Coach to Cure MD program … Kindbom is four wins shy of 200 for his career … WashU has won back-to-back road games for the first time since 2013 … Hammarlund moved into fifth place all-time in school history with 1,976 yards.