Florida Tech Panther Defense Shines In 28-17 Loss To Southeastern Louisiana
By Mitchell Praxl, Florida Tech // September 13, 2015
Turnovers Key As FIT Surrenders Nine Takeaways, Three Defensive Touchdowns
HAMMOND, LOUISIANA – Florida Tech (0-2, 0-0) had its chances to pull off the upset against Division I FCS opponent No. 18 Southeastern Louisiana Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium.
However, costly turnovers, many resulting in points, were the Panthers downfall as FIT was defeated 28-17.
Aside from a pair of defensive touchdowns by the Lions, FIT completely dominated the first half. The Panthers outgained SLU 199-82 in the opening half, including 249 yards through the air.
FIT turned it over four times in the opening frame but countered with a J.J. Sanders fumble recovery and a Jace Browne interception.
Despite the outcome, head coach Steve Englehart saw something to hang his hat on, the play of his Panther defense.
“I thought the defense played great. Really shut down their run and we came in on offense as kind of a gunslinger mentality, we felt like with them putting so many in the box we would not be able to run well, so we just opened it up and tried to throw it.”
Having spotted the Lions a 14-0 lead, Drake Hillman cut into the deficit with a 44-yard field goal, the first successful field goal of his brief football career.
The SLU lead was further diminished when Sean Ashley found a wide open Kenny Johnston on the sideline, allowing the lanky tight end to cruise 59 yards for a touchdown. The first half comeback was completed when Josh Denton took the first carry of his Panther career into the end zone from a yard out to give FIT a 17-14 lead at 9:29 in the second quarter.
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The two teams spent the entirety of the third quarter trading short drives and punts. The Lions broke the scoring drought early in the fourth quarter, taking a 21-17 lead on a Xavier Roberson two-yard rush.
SLU extended the advantage to 28-17 with its third defensive score of the game when Demarayeh Lane stepped in front of an Ashley pass and returned it 58 yards to pay dirt.
The Panthers had a number of chances late to draw close but each time an FIT turnover put an end to any building momentum.
Ashley completed 30 of 56 passes for 426 yards and a touchdown but also tossed four interceptions. Freshman Landon Galloway saw his first action under center as a Panther, rushing five times for 40 yards.
T.J. Lowder led the FIT receiving corps with 14 catches for 152 yards. Damaged greatly by a pair of bad snaps the Panthers struggled on the ground, rushing 20 times for negative 10 yards.
On defense, Chris Stapleton led the way with 11 tackles, eight of which were solo. Sanders also had a big game, securing nine tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage.
Donovan Isom was the spark for the SLU attack. The freshman quarterback rushed for 55 yards and passed for an additional 40. Isom’s main target through the air was Byron Johnson, who snagged a pair of catches for 41 yards.
Defensive back Micah Eugene led the Lions with nine tackles, including one for a loss, while fellow defensive back Will Hines chipped in eight tackles. Lineman Aaron Price registered a pair of sacks as well as a quarterback hurry.
FIT returns to Florida Tech Panther Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 19. The Panthers will battle in-state foe Warner at 7 p.m. ET. The game represents FIT’s Military Appreciation Game.
Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will call the game on WFIT 89.5 FM. The broadcast will also be available at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.
Live video and stats will be available at FloridaTechSports.com/live