Florida Tech Looks To Pull Off Massive Upset Against Division I-FCS Foe McNeese State On Saturday
By Florida Tech // September 9, 2017
7 p.m. ET at Cowboys Stadium
ABOVE VIDEO: Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski hosts In the Red Zone with Florida Tech Panthers Head Coach Steve Englehart live from Old School Pizza.
LAKE CHARLES, LOUISIANA – Florida Tech Football is set for a challenging matchup in its second game of the season this Saturday, Sept. 9, as the Panthers face Division I-FCS opponent McNeese State at 7 p.m. ET at Cowboys Stadium in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
FIT is coming off a dominant win over Virginia University of Lynchburg in its season opener on Sept. 2. The Panthers defeated the Dragons 44-0 to improve their all-time record in home openers to 4-1.
Florida Tech has now posted a shutout in consecutive home openers after routing Mississippi College 41-0 in 2016,
Mark Cato is set to return to the starting quarterback position against McNeese State. The redshirt-senior is entering his fourth season as the Panthers’ starter behind center. In his previous three seasons, Cato amassed 7,298 yards passing and 70 touchdowns through the air, to go along with 940 rushing and 20 scores on the ground.
Possible backup quarterback Trent Chmelik played well in his first-ever game action with the Panthers, going 8-12 for 138 yards and two touchdowns against VUL. He also ran for 13 yards on four carries. The Clearwater, Florida native found Romell Guerrier for a 59-yard score in the second quarter and Mason Wilfong from 17 yards out in the third.
Guerrier finished the opener as FIT’s leading receiver with with six catches and 78 yards. Middle Tennessee State-transfer Demetrius Frazier notched 59 yards on four receptions and Wilfong ended with two catches and 19 yards.
The Panthers will have a steeple of running backs to run against the Cowboys’ defense on Saturday. Five different Panthers took hand-offs against VUL. Returning rushers Antwaun Haynes and Gary Holmes will be main contributors in the back field this year. UMASS-transfer Sekai Lindsay and Corey Lane can also be playmakers that will thrown in at any time.
The special teams unit showed great promise in the opener with Max Erdman scoring on a punt return and Daniel Welch returning a blocked field for a touchdown.
The FIT defense limited VUL to 155 total yards on just 30 yards passing and 125 rushing. Marquise Lewis had a stellar game for the FIT defense with 11 tackles and one tackle for loss against VUL. He should be a key contributor for the Panthers this season, along with other returners Adonis Davis, Jimmy Hinel and Joe Jackson.
McNeese State fell in its first game of the season to Nicholls 37-35 on the road on August 31. The Cowboys showed it has some firepower on the offensive side of the ball, recording 432 yards on 81 total plays.
Cowboys’ quarterback James Tabary went 25-42 for 238 with three touchdowns and two interceptions against Nichols. Tabary is coming off one of the greatest seasons in school history in 2016. The junior passed for 3,036 yards and set new single-season records for most completions (249), pass attempts (415) and 300-yard passing games (4). He was named the Southland Conferences Newcomer of the Year in 2016.
Tavarious Battiste was Tabary’s favorite target on the outside, catching six passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Next in line was Lawayne Ross with 47 yards on five catches, while Crawley had three catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. In total, 10 different MSU players made a catch in the game.
MSU’s rushing attack racked up 194 yards utilizing a committee approach. Justin Pratt received the most touches of the group, recording 50 yards on 14 carries. David Hamm took his nine carries for 45 yards. Keep an eye out for Darious Crawley, who scampered for 53 yards on his lone rush of the game.
The Cowboys’ defense allowed 304 yards to Nicholls, including 213 passing and 91 rushing. The defense is led by Ashari Goins, who racked up nine tackles in the opener, including one sack. Jermaine Antoine runs the Cowboys’ defensive backfield and recorded six tackles, one fumble recovery and one interception.
FIT is 8-3 all-time against non-Division II competition, including a 3-2 mark against DI-FCS opponents. The Panthers have defeated Stetson twice, 20-13 in 2013 and 54-12 in 2014. Florida Tech fell to Bethune Cookeman 34-33 and Southeastern Louisiana 28-17 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Then last season, FIT knocked off Presbyterian 28-7 on the road.
Jerry Durney will be on the call from Cowboys Stadium on 89.5 FM WFIT and WFIT.org
Links to live coverage, including live video and stats, can be accessed at FloridaTechSports.com
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS