Florida Tech Panthers Fumble Away Golden Opportunity In Road Loss To West Alabama

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FIT amasses school record 643 yards in loss

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Florida Tech defensive back Joe Jackson can only watch as West Alabama receiver Corey Davis hauls in a touchdown pass. The Panthers amassed 643 yards of offense but four fumbles proved to be the difference in FIT’s 45-35 defeat. (UWA image)

LIVINGSTON, ALABAMA – Four fumbles spelled the difference for Florida Tech Saturday afternoon, as The Panthers wasted key opportunities in a 45-35 defeat to West Alabama at Tiger Stadium.

The Panther offense put up gaudy numbers in the defeat, accumulating a school-record 643 yards of total offense. Mark Cato completed 19 of 24 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns, the first 500 yard passing game in the history of the program.

Kenny Johnston and Buck Watkins were to beneficiaries of the big game, with Johnston hauling in five passes for 149 yards and Watkins grabbing two balls for 102 yards.

Antwuan Haynes was a handful, racking up 126 rushing yards and 77 receiving yards for 203 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.

“Offensively I thought we did a lot of really, really great things,” said head coach Steve Englehart. “Cato played really well, took what they gave him. Everybody on offense played well, we just gave the ball away. We put the ball on the ground in key situations.”

The Panther defense struggled to contain West Alabama quarterback Austin Grammar, who passed for 367 yards and three scores.

Three Panthers had double-digit tackles in Manny Abad (13), Chris Stapleton (13) and Andrew Adiar (11).

“Defensively we just couldn’t get off the field on third down,” continued Englehart. “I thought they played better in the second half, they tightened up the coverage a bit.”

The Tigers opened the scoring just over five minutes in as Donta Armstrong snagged a nine-yard toss from Grammar. It took FIT just 54 seconds to respond with Cato firing a bullet to a wide-open Haynes, who trotted in for six from 62 yards out.

Trevor Sand gave the Panthers their first lead of the game, plunging in from a yard out just before the end of the first quarter.

The lead didn’t last long, though, as Grammar and Corey Davis connected for back-to-back touchdown passes to put UWA up 21-14. Brad Williams had an opportunity to close the deficit before the half but his 33-yard field goal attempt missed wide right.

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Quarterback Mark Cato completed 19 of 24 passes for 502 yards and three touchdowns, the first 500 yard passing game in the history of the program. (Florida Tech image)

Just under five minutes into the third quarter, Troy Gatling tied the contest with a spectacular one-handed catch from 26 yards out, bringing the score to 21 apiece.

After a one-yard scoring rush by UWA’s Lakendric Thomas, Haynes countered with a darting six-yard touchdown dash to knot the game at 28-28.

Unfortunately from there things spiraled out of control for the Panthers as costly turnovers allowed the Tigers to build a 17-point lead.

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FIT managed to add a little drama at the end as Cato delivered a bomb to Kenny Johnston for an 88-yard touchdown in the closing minutes but in the end it was too little, too late.

The ensuing onside kick went out of bounds and the Tigers were able to run out the clock for a 45-35 victory.

“Ultimately it was exactly what I told the team, the team that wins the turnover battle will win the game,” concluded Englehart. “They won the turnover battle and that was the difference.”

The Panthers return home to Florida Tech Panther Stadium next Saturday, taking on Valdosta State at 7 p.m. ET. Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will have the call on 89.5 FM WFIT and WFIT.org.

KEY PERFORMERS: 

Florida  Tech Quarterback Mark Cato 19-24 502 yards, 3 touchdowns

Florida Tech Tight End Kenny Johnston 5 catches, 149 yards, 1 touchdown

Florida Tech Running Back Antwaun Haynes 21 rushes, 136 yards, 1 touchdown. Haynes also had 77 receiving yards for 203 yards of total offense.

NUMBERS THAT MATTERED:

Florida Tech’s defense allowed UWA to convert on eight of 14 third down attempts

Florida Tech fumbled three times (four times in all) in the games final 16 minutes, losing all three. the three fumbles led to 10 UWA points.

Scoring Summary
Qtr Time Scoring Play FIT UWA
1st 09:55 UWA – Donta Armstrong 9 yd pass from Austin Grammer (Jordan Bennett kick ) 9 plays, 56 yards, TOP 2:53 0 7
1st 05:01 FIT – Antwuan Haynes 62 yd pass from Mark Cato (Brad Williams kick ) 3 plays, 72 yards, TOP 1:13 7 7
1st 00:32 FIT – Trevor Sand 1 yd run (Brad Williams kick ), 5 plays, 90 yards, TOP 1:48 14 7
2nd 13:35 UWA – Corey Davis 1 yd pass from Austin Grammer (Jordan Bennett kick ) 7 plays, 62 yards, TOP 1:50 14 14
2nd 09:06 UWA – Corey Davis 27 yd pass from Austin Grammer (Jordan Bennett kick ) 9 plays, 81 yards, TOP 3:22 14 21
3rd 10:49 FIT – Troy Gatling 26 yd pass from Mark Cato (Brad Williams kick ) 6 plays, 85 yards, TOP 2:43 21 21
3rd 08:13 UWA – L. Thomas 1 yd run (Jordan Bennett kick ), 7 plays, 67 yards, TOP 2:23 21 28
3rd 02:20 FIT – Antwuan Haynes 6 yd run (Brad Williams kick ), 5 plays, 38 yards, TOP 1:33 28 28
3rd 00:00 UWA – Se’quan Steele 46 yd fumble recovery (Jordan Bennett kick ) 28 35
4th 10:08 UWA – Corey Davis 19 yd pass from Austin Grammer (Jordan Bennett kick ) 12 plays, 83 yards, TOP 3:11 28 42
4th 06:53 UWA – Jordan Bennett 44 yd field goal 4 plays, -1 yards, TOP 1:22 28 45
4th 01:46 FIT – Kenny Johnston 88 yd pass from Mark Cato (Brad Williams kick ) 3 plays, 84 yards, TOP 1:10 35 45
35 45
Team Statistics
Game Stats FIT UWA
First Downs 22 29
Total Offensive Yards 643 504
Passing Yards 502 367
Rushing Yards 141 137
Penalty Yards 4-25 3-33
3rd Downs 3-11 8-14
4th Downs 1-1 0-0
Time Of Possession 31:19 28:36

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