Florida Tech Upsets No. 5 Delta State on the Road, Sand Rushes For 135 Yards

By  //  October 4, 2015

Gary Holmes returned Florida Tech’s first kickoff back in the program’s three-year history for a 100-yard touchdown in the Panthers’ 41-37 win over No. 5 Delta State. (Image by Amanda Stratford Photography)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – It wasn’t always pretty but in the end Florida Tech (2-3, 1-1 GSC) came out on the right side of the scoreboard Saturday night. The Panthers took down No. 5 Delta State (4-1, 0-1 GSC) on its own turf 41-37 at McCool Stadium.

With the win, FIT knocked off a top-five team for the first time in program history. The Panthers also registered their first GSC win against a ranked opponent.

Motivated by a less than awe-inspiring performance a week ago against North Alabama, the Panther defense came out firing on all cylinders. FIT held the Statesmen to a field goal on the opening drive and then forced three consecutive punts.

The FIT offense took advantage of the impressive start by their counterparts, scoring 17 straight points.

T.J. Lowder
T.J. Lowder

Drake Hillman hit a 21-yard field goal to get the Panthers on the board. Gary Holmes gave FIT the lead with an 11-yard scoring run before Mark Cato found T.J. Lowder in the end zone from 10 yards out.

The Statesmen would answer with a touchdown and field goal bookending a Hillman 29-yard field goal. At the half, FIT held a 20-13 advantage.

If the first half began well for the Panthers, the start of the second half was nothing short of fantastic. After slipping four yards deep in his own end zone, Holmes hit a seam and flew down the field for a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the first of its kind in program history.

Mark Cato
Mark Cato

After the Statesmen answered with a long scoring drive capped by a Eddie McCadney 14-yard rush, Mark Cato answered back with a two-yard scoring plunge on a read option.

Mere moments later, the lead was extended when Leo Alba II forced a fumble on the kickoff return and Josh Denton scooped and scored.

Showing great resiliency, the Statesmen didn’t give up. After a Sullivan touchdown pass to Justin McArthur, Jamel Dennis returned a Cato interception 26-yards for six to trim the Panther lead to a single score at 41-34.

After being gifted the ball in plus territory multiple times, DSU was only able to turn the opportunities into three points.

With the lead in hand and 3:55 left on the clock, the Panthers were able to bleed out nearly the entirety of the remaining time. DSU got the ball back with three seconds left but Sullivan’s pass fell harmlessly to the ground for an incompletion to seal the deal.

Trevor Sand
Trevor Sand

Trevor Sand proved that he is fully healed from an injury that caused him to miss two-consecutive games, toting the rock 17 times for 135 yards.

Cato didn’t have his most efficient game of his Panther career but his 14 completions for 175 yards and two total touchdowns were good enough for the victory. Wayne Saunders II paced the receiving crew with four catches for 71 yards.

Andrew Adair led the FIT defense with 13 total tackles, including 10 solo stops and a tackle for loss. Alba II chipped in 11 solo tackles as well. Tyler Rosenblatt came up in the clutch, intercepting a pass in the end zone as the Statesmen threatened to take the lead late in the game.

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FIT returns home next Saturday for its annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game against West Alabama at Florida Tech Panther Stadium at 7 p.m. ET.

Live video and stats will be available at FloridaTechSports.com/live.

Jerry Durney and Paul Van Scott will call the radio broadcast of the game, which can be heard on 89.5 WFIT, at WFIT.org and through the free TuneIn Radio app.