Cato’s Game-Winning Touchdown Leads
Panthers to 41-39 Upset of GSC’s Top Team
MELBOURNE, Fla. – An 11-yard touchdown run by Mark Cato with 51 seconds to go propelled Florida Tech to an impressive 41-39 upset victory over No. 18 West Alabama in Gulf South Conference action at Panther Stadium Saturday.
FIT improved to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the GSC in the victory, while UWA dropped to 6-2 overall and 5-1 in league play.
The Tigers, who were also ranked No. 13 in the D2 Football Poll, were the top team in the GSC standings heading into this weekend and the only team to not drop a conference game all season.
Playing against the league’s top offense, Florida Tech outgained the Tigers 484-463 on 345 passing yards and 139 rushing yards. The Panther defense forced a season-best three turnovers against UWA, with two fumbles and one interception.
Cato finished 22-of-40 with 345 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The redshirt senior added 14 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Evan Thompson recorded a game-high eight tackles in the victory and J.T. Hassell added seven total tackles. Patrick Banks had six tackles in the contest, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown. Joe Jackson and T. J. Rodriguez had five tackles and forced one turnover apiece. Thierry Lafortune finished with two tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble.
West Alabama got off to a quick start against the Panthers. After recovering a muffed punt by Daniel Welch at the FIT 16-yard line, UWA’s Henry Satterwhite found Qua Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Tigers an early 7-0 edge. UWA then increased its advantage to 14-0 on a two-yard run by Tyler Rogers.
Florida Tech responded with a 34-yard touchdown reception by Barrett from Cato to cut the deficit in half with 2:12 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers pushed their lead back to 10 points, 17-7, on a 24-yard field goal by Colin Douglas with 11:50 left in the second quarter. However, a pair of rushing touchdowns by Haynes, from 1 and 11 yards out, gave FIT back the lead, 20-17, just before halftime.
Cato’s four-yard touchdown pass to Purlett in the back of the end zone capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive by the Panthers that ate up 5:01 of game time and gave the Crimson and Gray a 27-17 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
UWA answered with a four-yard touchdown scamper by Lakenderic Thomas early in the fourth quarter, cutting the margin back to three, 27-24.
On the Tigers’ next possession, on their own 39-yard line, Satterwhite was sacked by Lafortune and the ball bounced loose for a fumble. Banks scooped up the loose ball and ran it back 30 yards for a Florida Tech touchdown. The score was now 34-24 with 12:09 remaining.
West Alabama fought its way back into the game over the next 12 minutes, scoring 13 unanswered points and taking a 37-34 advantage with 1:53 left in the contest.
Desperately needing a score, the Florida Tech offense engineered a six-play, 78-yard drive, which ended in an 11-yard quarterback run by Cato for the score. In addition to the run, Cato passed for 67 yards on the drive to get the Panthers back ahead 41-37 with 51 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing drive, Satterwhite had his pass intercepted by Joe Jackson and the Panthers were able to run out the clock to earn the upset victory.
Florida Tech looks to continue the momentum when it travels to face GSC rival Valdosta State on Saturday, Oct. 28, in Valdosta, Georgia. Kickoff for the game is set for 7 p.m. ET at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.