Florida Tech Falls to Top-Ranked Valdosta State, Panthers Set Sights on Homecoming Game vs. West Florida
By Daniel Supraner, Florida Tech Sports // October 20, 2019
Panthers fall to Blazers on the road 55-28
VALDOSTA, GEORGIA– Florida Tech was neck-and-neck with the defending national champion, No. 1-ranked Valdosta State through the first 25 minutes of game time but a dominate second quarter by VSU was the difference as the Panthers fell to the Blazers, 55-28 on Saturday evening at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
This is the third consecutive defeat for Florida Tech who moves to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in GSC play. The Panthers are now 1-6 all-time against Valdosta State.
Head coach Steve Englehart gave praise to VSU’s performance in the game but also credited some mental lapses that helped the Blazers to make some big plays in the contest.
“Valdosta is a great football team, they’re well-coached; Coach Goff has done a great job with them,” said Englehart.
“They have a lot weapons they can throw at you but we just made too many mistakes on defense. There were times when we just were not covering guys and blowing assignments and you cannot do that against the No. 1 team in the country.”
VSU got on the board first in the game on a six-yard touchdown pass from Rogan Wells at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter.
Tech answered just 40 seconds later with a 51-yard connection between Trent Chmelik and Daniel Richardson to tie the game up at 7-7.
Less than three minutes later, though, the Blazers struck again on a 13-yard touchdown scamper by Seth McGill.
Mike Diliello tied the game as well as a school record with his 10th rushing touchdown of the season, knotting the contest up at 14-14 with 33 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
This marks the seventh consecutive week that Diliello has scored a rushing touchdown, which is tied for the longest streak in program history. Only Mark Cato has achieved the same feat when he scored a rushing touchdown in seven straight games from Oct. 24, 2015, through Sept. 17, 2016.
McGill’s second rushing touchdown of the game made it 21-14 with 12:23 to go before halftime.
It took less than two minutes for Tech to tie the game once again, as the Panthers drove 75 yards in four plays and scored on a 33-yard touchdown from Chmelik to Damien McGhee.
However, the Blazers answered with a 62-yard touchdown reception from Wells to Brian Saunds. After missing the extra point, VSU led 27-21 with 9:41 left in the first half.
On the next Valdosta State drive, Wells broke away from the defense and scored on a 69-yard run to put the Blazers up 34-21. Wells then found Travis Taylor for a passing touchdown on their next offensive possession to go up 41-21 with 23 seconds to go before halftime.
Following a scoreless third quarter, VSU got back on the board at the start of the fourth as McGill scored on a 19-yard run, his third rushing touchdown of the night, and increased his team’s lead to 48-21.
Diliello found Miles Kelly for a 14-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone with 8:35 left in the game to make the margin 48-27.
VSU scored again with just over seven minutes left in the fourth to bring the score to its final total, 55-28.
The Blazers outgained the Panthers, 642-417, which includes a 304-153 advantage in the ground game. VSU had 28 first downs compared to 20 for Tech. The Crimson & Gray struggled on third down going 3-of-12 while VSU converted on 7-of-10 tries. The Blazers had the ball for 34:04 of game time.
“Offensively we made a lot of plays in the first half. We just needed the defense to make a stop in the first half. If they had made a stop maybe our game planning would have been different in the game, and would not have taken as many chances.
“However, I do think our defense did play a lot better in the second half. They came out and played hard. Took care of business for the most part, in the second half.
Chmelik, who made his first start for the Panthers since being injured in the Newberry game, finished with 235 yards and two touchdowns through the air on 13-of-27 passing. Diliello completed 3-of-5 passes for 29 yards and a touchdown while also rushing 10 times for 50 yards and a score.
“Trent (Chmelik) played really well for us. I think we are a better offense when we can roll both Trent and Mike (Diliello) in there. It is a good mix-up. Now defenses know Mike is not just a good runner, he is a great thrower as well. All it does is take a little pressure off Mike and off of Trent if both are able to play.
Corey Lane led Tech in rushing with 58 yards on six carries while Drezyn Parson picked up 39 yards on five touches.
McGhee caught two passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Kelly caught five passes for 70 yards and a score while Richardson hauled in two passes for 50 yards. Brian Spurgeon, Jr. then went for 50 yards on four receptions.
John McClure and Chad Simmons led Florida Tech with eight tackles apiece. Simmons finished with a team-high 1.5 tackles for loss. Justin Wright and Ian Pittman recorded seven tackles each while Myles Wright had six tackles.
Patrick Banks and McClure combined on a sack in the game. Malachi Timberlake forced the only turnover in the contest with his second interception of the season.
“Our guys fought hard, played hard all night,” stated Englehart. “I think how we played offensively as well as defensively, in the second half, is something to build off of from this game.”
Florida Tech will now turn its attention to next Saturday and the annual Homecoming game against Coastal Classic rival West Florida. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Panther Stadium. Stay tuned for more information on the homecoming activities set to take place over the week.