Panthers Win First-Ever ECAC Futures Bowl, 32-20
By Ryan Jones // November 24, 2013
Milton Offensive MVP, McDowell Defensive MVP
PHILIPPI, WEST VIRGINA – Florida Tech (5-7) ended its inaugural 2013 season with a 32-20 victory over fellow first-year program Alderson Broaddus (4-7) in the first-ever Eastern College Athletic Conference Division II Futures Bowl Saturday afternoon at AB Stadium.
In his last game of his collegiate career, Bobby Vega was 27-of-40 for 295 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. His four touchdowns were the most a FIT quarterback has thrown in a game this season.
Xavier Milton had a season-high 14 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns. His counterpart Aaron George hauled in the other two scores. Nathan McDowell led the defense with eight tackles. He and Mike Ferguson also had two sacks each.
Following the game, Milton was named the game’s offensive MVP and McDowell earned the defensive MVP award.
PANTERS OVERCOME ROCKY START
“Our kids had an extreme amount of excitement before the game,” head coach Steve Englehart said. “They were dancing in the locker room. I didn’t even really need to give a pregame speech. I just said ‘let’s do what you do and have fun.’ Fortunately, we were able to withstand some bad turn of events in the first quarter with a fumble on the first drive, a pick on the second drive, then go three-and-out and drop the punt on the third drive.
“We put our defense in bad, bad situations. For them to only come out with three points on those three drives was unbelievable. I’m really proud of them to do that. Finally, on our fourth drive, we were able to drive the ball down, get a touchdown and get the ball rolling. … I’m proud of the way our guys came out and proud to get a road win, finally. We have that checked off the to-do list and hopefully that will propel us in the offseason going into next year.”
The game did not start nearly as well as the Panthers had hoped. Their first drive ended with a fumble on their 37-yard line. The second ended with an interception at their 24-yard line. After Alderson Broaddus forced a three-and-out on the third drive, the Panthers fumbled the ensuing punt at their 25-yard line. Despite the mistakes, the Battlers only had three points to show for it on the scoreboard.
Finally, on the fourth drive, FIT capitalized on a missed field goal by driving 80 yards on four plays. Vega targeted a diving Milton on the left side of the end zone to put the visitors up 7-3.
VEGA, MILTON HOOK UP KEEP PANTHERS AHEAD
Alderson Broaddus regained the lead with 8:09 remaining in the second quarter on a scramble by quarterback Dakota Bruggeman and a successful two-point conversion to go ahead by an 11-10 score.
Less than five minutes later, Vega connected with Milton again for his 11th touchdown of the season. The extra point attempt, however, was no good.
Trailing 16-11 with 3:25 left in the first half, Alderson Broaddus answered with a 25-yard touchdown pass by Bruggeman to Paris Person. The first half would come to a close with the Battlers leading the Panthers 17-16.
Alderson Broaddus tacked on a field goal to make it 20-16 at the 9:09 mark of the third quarter and those three points proved to be the last it would score the remainder of the game.
George capped a five-play, 42-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown reception on the next possession to put the Panthers ahead. As the third quarter was winding down, he caught one more touchdown to make it a 29-20 game. Brion Ashley put an exclamation point on the game with a field goal with 6:55 to play.
TECH DEFENSE SHINES
The Panther defense held the Battlers to 116 rushing yards and 195 passing yards for the game. It also forced two fumbles, had one pick and five sacks.
“We drove 14 hours to get here, so our mindset was we weren’t leaving without the W,” McDowell said. “Coming on this long trip, we were really motivated. We knew it was going to be cold. It was about 35 to 40 degrees, but Coach (Willie) Tillman told us we need to put that out of our mind, we can’t focus on it and we just need to go out there and play. That’s what we did.”
Vega was happy to end his Panther career with a win and was thankful for the opportunity he had to lead the team in its inaugural season.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “I’m thankful to come out here (to West Virginia). I had some fans here that I played with at my other school. One lady is like a second mom to me. I’m thankful for the opportunity and give God all the credit.
“It was a great way to end my career, four touchdowns and almost 300 yards. Of course it can be better, but that’s just me being greedy. I’m glad we got the win. That was the most important part.”
WIN ON THE ROAD SETS THE TONE FOR 2014
As Englehart and his staff start looking forward to their second season, he’s happy the team achieved one of its goals for this season in its last game, win on the road. Coach Englehart said:
Moving into next year, we know how to win on the road. We don’t have to be looking for that (road) win next year. We have already done it. That’s a big thing. Hopefully, down the line when we make the playoffs and we need to go to a place that’s really cold, we can say ‘hey guys, we’ve been here and done it before.’ We now know what it’s like. You have to go in with great energy and mental toughness and not let (the environment) bother you. There are going to be some good learning experiences coming from this (game). The turnovers that we had early are good learning experiences. The way our defense battled, I’m proud of them. It just gives us confidence as we move forward.”
With the win, FIT finishes its inaugural season 3-0 against first-year teams after beating Stetson, Warner and now Alderson Broaddus.