Florida Tech Panthers Set to Battle Wingate Bulldogs In North Carolina, On ESPN3 at 3 p.m.
By Daniel Supraner, Florida Tech Director of Athletic Communications // September 29, 2018
Kickoff between Florida Tech and Wingate is at 3 p.m. ET at Irwin Belk Stadium
WINGATE, NORTH CAROLINA – Reeling from the first loss of the season, Florida Tech (3-1) will look to get back on track as they face Wingate (2-2) on the road Saturday afternoon in Wingate, North Carolina. Start time between the Panthers and Bulldogs is set for 3 p.m. ET at Irwin Belk Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be live streamed on ESPN3 and the ESPN App as a result of Wingate’s partnership to have its home events broadcasted on the Worldwide Leader in Sport’s platform.
This will be the second of three times this season that a Florida Tech game will be broadcasted on ESPN3. The Panthers’ matchup versus Delta State on Sept. 15, a game Florida Tech won 30-12, and their contest at West Alabama on Oct. 27 were also streamed on the platform as a part of the GSC-TV Games of the Week series.
This will be the first-ever meeting between Florida Tech and Wingate, who represents the South Atlantic Conference. The Panthers are 2-2 all-time against the SAC, playing all four games against Newberry over the past six seasons. Wingate is 2-4 all-time against teams from the GSC.
LAST TIME OUT
Florida Tech was dealt a tough loss in its previous game at West Georgia, as the Panthers saw their fourth-quarter lead slip away in a 30-21 loss to the then-No. 8 ranked Wolves.
UWG outscored the Crimson & Gray 23-7 in the second half after the Panthers led 14-7 at halftime on the road. The turning point in the game was a 96-yard special teams touchdown for the Wolves on the opening kickoff of the second half. That play tied the game up at 14-14.
The Panthers did respond on their very next possession, scoring on a 15-yard touchdown reception by Terrance Bynum to cap off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with less than 10 minutes to go in the third quarter. UWG scored twice over the final 14 minutes to secure the win. Florida Tech dropped to 2-4 all-time against the Wolves.
Quarterback Trent Chmelik had a decent game for the Panthers, throwing for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Romell Guerrier was Chmelik’s favorite target in the game with 56 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions. Terrance Bynum also caught a 15-yard touchdown in the game.
Defensively, Florida Tech was led by J.T. Hassell, who registered his third consecutive outing with double-digit tackles, including one tackle for loss. Adonis Davis, who tied the Florida Tech career record for sacks with his 18th against the Wolves last Saturday. Davis also notched six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.
MEET THE OPPONENT: WINGATE BULLDOGS
The Wingate Bulldogs finished with a 9-2 record in 2017, winning their second SAC title, first since 2010, and making the program’s second appearance in the NCAA Division II Play-offs along the way.
The Bulldogs had won nine consecutive homes games before falling last week to Lenoir-Rhyne at home, 24-31. It was their first-ever loss under the lights at Irwin Belk Stadium, 6-0 previously. WU trailed 31-7 in the third quarter, but then scored 17 unanswered points to make it a one-score game before finally losing to LRU.
Cardell Rawlings was named the SAC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 14 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in the loss. Quarterback Shaw Crocker threw for a career-best 288 passing yards and two touchdowns, and scored another on the ground, while JT Stokes tallied a career-high 186 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Wingate head coach Joe Reich is in his 18th season with the Bulldogs, leading the program to an overall record of 112-76. He is the winningest coach in WU history, and one of three SAC coaches to ever win 100 games. Reich was named the SAC Coach of the Year in 2017 after guiding Wingate to the conference title.
INSIDE THE MATCHUP: FLORIDA TECH OFFENSE vs. WINGATE DEFENSE
Florida Tech ranks sixth in the GSC scoring 25.3 points per game this season, and eighth in the league with 310 yards per game on offense, 200.2 passing and 109.8 rushing.
Chmelik is averaging 196.5 yards passing per game, good for sixth in the GSC, and has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions. The junior quarterback is also third in the league with a 61.5 completion percentage.
Haynes leads the Florida Tech rushers and ranks fifth in the GSC with 62.0 yards on the ground per game. Guerrier has had a breakout year for the Panthers, as the wideout ranks second in the GSC in receptions (21), receiving yards (303) and touchdowns (4) this season. Haynes is second on the team with 12 catches for 130 yards.
Wingate ranks first in the GSC and 18th in the nation in passing defense, allowing just 146.8 yards per game. The Bulldogs also rank in the top-35 nationally in total defense (297.3) and scoring defense (18.8).
The Panthers’ offensive line, which has only allowed six sacks this season, will definitely be tested in this matchup as Wingate ranks third in the country in tackles for loss per game (11.1) and total sacks (18), and fifth in sacks per game (4.50).
Ten different Bulldogs have recorded a sack this season but the one player Florida Tech needs to keep a tab on is Cardell Rawlings. Wingate’s redshirt-senior defensive end has a team-high 33 tackles this season and leads all of NCAA football with his eight sacks, while also ranking first in NCAA DII with 11.5 tackles for loss.
“Cardell is a really good player that we need to be aware of on Saturday,” said Florida Tech head coach Steve Englehart. “He is not only a great pass rusher but he is a really good all-around football player. We need to do a great job of mixing it up on offense to keep them off balance.”
INSIDE THE MATCHUP: WINGATE OFFENSE vs. FLORIDA TECH DEFENSE
Wingate runs a multiple spread offense with a down-hill power running game. The Bulldogs are averaging 353.3 yards of total offense per game and scoring 22.3 points per game, good for third in the SAC. The Bulldogs rank second in the SAC in passing offense (244.5) and fifth in the league in rushing (108.8).
Crocker leads the SAC in passing yards per game (240.0), and ranks second in touchdowns (8) and third in completion percentage (0.558). Domineke McNeill leads the Bulldog rushers and is fourth in the SAC in rushing with 86.2 yards per game. Four different Bulldog wide receivers have at least nine catches this season. JT Stokes leads the way with 18 receptions for 344 yards and four touchdowns.
“When we watch them on film you can tell they are very well coached and sound in what they do,” stated Englehart. “Their quarterback is a winner and will make some plays for them. Our defense will have to prevent the big play and make them earn everything they get.”
The Florida Tech defense should be up to the task as the Panthers rank in the top-60 nationally in rushing defense (110.5), passing defense (189.5) and total defense (300.00), and are 23rd in the country in scoring defense (16.5).
J.T. Hassell is tied atop the GSC with 40 total tackles, while Adonis Davis leads the league with eight tackles for loss. Davis and Amani Peoples are also tied for second in the GSC with three sacks apiece.
The Panthers will try to take advantage of the Bulldogs carelessness with the ball the last two weeks – six turnovers in past two games. Florida Tech ranks third in the GSC in turnover margin at 0.50 and has forced seven turnovers this season on four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Davis has forced a team-high three forced fumbles while John McClure leads Florida Tech with two interceptions. The Panther defense has accounted for three scores this season – a pair of pick-sixes by Richard Leveille and McClure and a two-point conversion fumble return by J.T. Hassell.
PANTHERS RECEIVING VOTES IN AFCA WEEK 5 RANKING
The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) released its Week 4 Division II Coaches’ Poll on Monday and Florida Tech football is receiving votes in the poll, earning a total of 7 points in the ranking. The Panthers are joined by four other Gulf South Conference teams, including No. 6 West Georgia, No. 11 West Florida, No. 13 Valdosta State and No. 21 West Alabama. The four teams ranked in the Top 25 from the GSC are the most by any conference in Division II.
ADONIS DAVIS TIES CAREER RECORD FOR SACKS
With his one sack against West Georgia, redshirt-senior defensive lineman Adonis Davis joined J.J. Sanders atop the Florida Tech record books in career sacks with 18. Davis also moved closer to Sanders’ record of 52 career tackles for loss as he is now at 45 following last Saturday’s loss to UWG.
ANTWUAN HAYNES WITHIN REACH OF RUSHING RECORDS
Senior Antwuan Haynes has accumulated 2,903 rushing yards over his career and is only 378 yards away from breaking Florida Tech’s all-time rushing record, currently held by Trevor Sandat 3,280 yards. Haynes also needs just two more scores on the ground to tie Sand’s career record of 24 rushing TDs.
STAY TUNED TO SPACE COAST DAILY FOR UPDATES
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS