Hawks quarterback Tyler Pullum threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 24 passing, but the visiting Pioneers totaled 510 yards of offense — 307 passing and 203 rushing — and scored 31 unanswered points before the half to take control.
Morrison, the former Shorter offensive lineman who is in his first season as the Hawks’ head coach, said the loss was tough but they are continuing to work together to try and rebuild the Division II program.
“It’s so tough to take a team that has not won a game in over two years and change the culture,” Morrison said. “And if these guys can just keep their heads up and play for each other, then I think we’ll be successful. It’s the little victories. We’re looking for those little victories right now in everything we do.”
Shorter (0-2) started the game with a few of those “little victories” as the Hawks scored on the opening drive and then recovered a Tusculum fumble on the ensuing possession.
Pullum passed for 61 yards in the eight-play, 75-yard drive to begin the game, capping it off with a 19 yard throw to Joseph Ross as he crossed the goal line. The kick failed, but Shorter had a 6-0 lead.
Tusculum (1-1) got to work after the kickoff with Maxwell Joseph getting the lion’s share of the carries to get the Pioneers down to Shorter’s 29-yard line before getting hit by Shorter’s Jeremiah Brown and losing the ball.
Marcus Cody recovered the fumble to get the Hawks’ offense back on the field but they would be forced to punt.
After Tusculum was held to a field goal early in the second quarter, Pullum was intercepted at the Hawks’ 35. Joseph scored on the next play on a 17-yard rush to give the Pioneers their first lead of the day, 10-6. Joseph finished with 109 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
With Shorter down 17-6, Elijah Gilbert coughed up a kick return inside the 20, giving Tusculum’s offense another short field. Quarterback Tommy Pistone hit Jacob Moss on a 12-yard TD strike three plays later.
“Since day one we’ve talked about effort and attitude and how we need to keep developing that. With the numbers of young players we have, we know there are going to be some bumps in the road,” Morrison said.
Shorter tried getting back some points in the fourth quarter, ending one drive with a blocked 32-yard field goal before Pullum found Gilbert on a 3-yard touchdown pass on another with 3:18 left to play. Ross then caught the 2-point pass to make it 54-14, but that would be the final score for the Hawks.
Shorter hits the road for the next two weeks, beginning Gulf South Conference play Saturday at West Florida and then traveling to Valdosta State.