North Alabama Runs Away From Florida Tech, Defeats Panthers 55-48
By Zach Clark // September 27, 2015
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Florida Tech (1-3, 0-1 GSC) put forth a valiant effort but was outgunned in an offensive slobber knocker, falling 55-48 to No. 8 North Alabama (3-0, 2-0 GSC) Saturday night at Braly Municipal Stadium.
“The game wasn’t lost at the end, it was lost throughout the course of the game,” said head coach Steve Englehart.
“It was lost in the first and second quarter when we didn’t get stops and we turned the ball over or whatever the case may be. We have got to learn to do it on a more consistent basis.”
At the half, the Lions led 34-21 in what could only be described as a shootout. The two teams combined for 726 yards of total offense in the opening half, led by UNA with 452 yards.
All three Panther scores came off the arm of Mark Cato, who registered touchdown passes of 58, 49 and 16 to Kenny Johnston, Richard Burrows and, Antwuan Haynes, respectively.
The Panthers led twice in the half but each time Lion quarterback Luke Wingo countered to put the explosive UNA offense back out front.
FIT used a quick start to the third frame to close the gap. The Panthers converted a fourth and eight with a 30 yard scoring pass to T.J. Lowder to cut the deficit. On the next play, Wingo was intercepted by Trai Cadore, who returned the pick to the UNA six. Trevor Sand didn’t waste time, tying the game with a six yard rush to pay dirt.
The Lions answered back quickly regaining momentum with a pair of Wingo rushing touchdowns to take a 48-34 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
When it looked like things may get out of hand, FIT responded. After a 53-yard kickoff return by Haynes, the Panthers put together a seven play, 46-yard drive capped by a one yard touchdown plunge by Gary Holmes.
Not to be outdone, UNA answered. The Lions recorded an eight-play scoring drive wrapped up with an eight yard rush by Lamonte Thompson.
However, the Panthers refused to let up, coming back with a long 87-yard drive ending with a touchdown toss from Cato to Wayne Sauders II.
FIT had one final chance, starting with the ball at its own 10 with 2:06 left on the clock. The Panthers drove down to the UNA 22 in fairly quick order but were unable to pick up a fourth down, allowing the Lions to run out the clock.
Third down was a killer for FIT, which surrendered conversions on 10-of-14 attempts. The Panthers also allowed the Lions to go a perfect six-for-six on red zone opportunities.
Cato completed 23-of-40 passes for 353 yards and five touchdowns to five different players. Holmes paced the rushing attack with 16 carries for 72 yards, while Johnston led the receiving corps with nine catches for 147 yards.
FIT used a balanced defense, with nine players recording at least five tackles. Jason Kollock spearheaded the effort with eight total stops.
Thompson led all rushers with 123 yards on 19 carries, while Wingo completed 24-of-39 passes for 398 yards. C.J. Jackson led the UNA defense with 13 tackles.
The Panthers return to action next Saturday at No. 5 Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi. The contest is the GSC-TV Game of the Week and as such will be broadcasted live on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will also call a radio broadcast of the game, which will be available on 89.5 WFIT, at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.