North Alabama Defeats Florida Tech 55-28
By Space Coast Daily // November 10, 2013
Tech churNs our 471 yards total offense
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The first-year Florida Tech Panthers hung tough against the 24th-ranked University of North Alabama as the Panthers hosted the Lions at Pirate Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Although the Lions defeated Florida Tech 55-28, and in the process laid claim to at least a share of the 2013 Gulf South Conference football championship, the fledgling Florida Tech Program is gaining valuable experience to build upon.
The Panthers (3-7, 1-5 GSC) and Lions (7-2, 5-1 GSC) marked the final Gulf South Conference game of the season for both teams.
CLICK HERE TO SEE NORTH ALABAMA VS. FLORIDA TECH GAME STATS
Once again, Florida Tech’s offense showed it’s capable of putting up a host of impressive numbers against a nationally-ranked opponent.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, there was another number that stood out in Saturday’s clash with No. 24 ranked North Alabama – six turnovers.
The visiting Lions helped turn those Florida Tech mistakes into a 55-28 victory Saturday afternoon at Palm Bay High School’s Pirate Stadium that helped North Alabama clinch at least a share of the Gulf South Conference championship.
FLORIDA TECH THROWS FOR 321 YARDS
Florida Tech, meanwhile, put up a school record 471 yards of total offense (outgaining UNA by 20 yards), including 321 yards through the air as the Panthers once again were able to hang with a nationally-ranked team for portions of the game.
“I think our offense has gotten better every week,” Panthers head coachSteve Englehart said. “Sometimes I think if we could get out of the way of ourselves, we could be pretty good. We make some mistakes that cost us points.
“If we can shore those things up, I think we’ll be good, and I think with experience that’ll happen. I think you’re going to see a much more experienced, disciplined (team that makes) less mistakes as we move forward.”
Florida Tech quarterback Bobby Vega completed 26 of 40 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Dalin Modican caught seven passes for 60 yards and a touchdown, while Aaron George had six receptions for 92 yards and a score.
Xavier Milton and Gabe Hughes also caught touchdown passes. For Hughes, it was the first TD catch of his college career.
“It means a lot to us to come back every game doing better than the game before, because that means we’re staying focused,” Milton said. “We want to get better, grow as a team.”
The Panthers fell behind early as North Alabama (7-2 overall, 5-1 GSC) scored on its first two possessions (the second was set by a Florida Tech turnover) before Vega led Florida Tech on a 70-yard drive that culminated in a 31-yard touchdown pass to George.
UNA, which scored on its first five possessions, would take a 34-14 at the half. However, the Panthers would come out and do something to the Lions defense that no other team North Alabama has played this season has been able to do. Not Valdosta State. Not Delta State. Not West Alabama. Nobody.
The Panthers opened the third quarter with a 65-yard drive that ended when Vega hit Modican over the middle for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
Those were the first points North Alabama has given up in the third quarter all season, and it showed once again what the Panthers are capable of.
“We all know in our heads and we see it in practice and in the games that we have the talent to compete with (nationally-ranked teams),” Hughes said. “We just have to have the mindset going out there that we can (do it). That’s all we really need, (for) the mental mistakes to stop and we’ll compete with any team that’s in the conference.”
Florida Tech certainly wants to be in North Alabama’s position sooner than later, but right now games like Saturday’s will have to serve as building blocks.
North Alabama was coming off consecutive wins over nationally-ranked teams in Valdosta State and West Alabama and has now won six games in a row.
Florida Tech’s 471 yards of offense are not only the second-highest total the Lions have given up all season, but so are the 28 points the Panthers scored.
So while Florida Tech may not have gotten the victory, it was certainly the kind of day the Panthers can use as they try to build up their program in this, their inaugural season.
“That’s what keeps me going, knowing that this isn’t a team where we’ve been here for four or five years and we’re getting beat like this,” Englehart said.
“This is a team that this is their 10th football game in college for most of them. I know we have a lot of growing to do, but what’s good about it is most of the kids who are playing have two or three years left of eligibility, so they have time to grow.
“Obviously, we want everything right now, but you’ve got to understand Rome wasn’t built in a day and we’re not going to build this program into a national power in a day. It’s going to take some time.”
NEXT UP: The Florida Tech Panthers will conclude their 2013 season as take on the Webber International at Pirate Stadium next Saturday at 2 p.m.